Yorkshire Helicopter’s founder Oli Nicholls has built an entire career from flying and instructing in the Robinson R44. We managed to catch up with him in between training flights to chat about the Robinson R44. We asked him why he has chosen it as the main training helicopter for Yorkshire Helicopters
Here’s Oli’s Reasons For Training in the Robinson R44
Q. You’ve flown Robinson’s R22, the Cabri and others as well as the R44, why did you chose it?
A. There are several reasons why the R44 makes a very good training platform. The most obvious one is availability. It’s probably one of the most numerous and affordable helicopters in the world right now. The R22 was never really designed for training. It simply was pushed into that role by flight schools because it was cheap to buy. Frank Robinson would probably admit that he never envisaged that the R22 would be a training helicopter.
The Cabri is a great machine, looks smart and flies well. However it is a little short on power and is still only two seats.
So add in the fact that most helicopter pilots are going to want to take friends and family flying, then the four seat Robinson R44 makes perfect sense.
Q. Is the R44 more expensive to operate?
A. The direct operating costs are higher, for sure. However, the R44 is much more stable in higher winds. So those two things combine to make it more cost effective that it first appears. Add in our location here at Walton Wood in Yorkshire, where there are no real restriction or air traffic control to be concerned with and the costs become more sensible.
Also the fact that with four seats, as you progress in flying it’s useful to observe other pilots training from the rear seats. Plus cost share on trips such as flying the London Heli Lanes or flying out to Northern France for lunch. With three pilots plus and instructor sharing the flying, it’s a great way to gain experience.
Q. What engine does the R44 have, compared to the other training helicopters?
A. The R44 has the large Lycoming O540 six cylinder engine, much more powerful that the four cylinder engine in the R22 and Cabri. This gives us more options and lots of extra power for hovering as well as a higher cruise speed, of course.
Q. What comes after learning on the R44?
A. Turbines, of course! That could mean the Robinson R66, which is becoming more popular here in Europe. Plus the other obvious choices are the legendary Bell Jetranger and the Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) HC125 and HC130.
However, while some flying schools will urge you to become rated on turbines as soon as possible, we believe that there should be a sound financial or career reason behind that decision. Turbine helicopters look, smell and sound great, of course, however you have to consider the cost of training for the rating.
The R44 is a great helicopter to learn to fly with. And many pilots are perfectly happy flying no other helicopter at all. I think that says a lot about the original design.