One of the very first things that anyone thinks about once they’ve realised that they simply must learn to fly is the comparison between fixed wing vs helicopter flying.
As well as the curated list here, you may well have further points you have come up with yourself. Feel free to add these in the comments below.
Fixed Wing Pros and Cons.
For Fixed Wing
The cost. This is a big one and for many people may be the game changer. a fixed wing licence is significantly, probably 3 times, cheaper to achieve than the equivalent helicopter licence. It’s that simple.
If flying is your ambition and you don’t care what you fly then there are some great fixed wing flying schools around. Indeed, there is also gliding, ultralight flying and other ways to get airborne. Chances are, you’ve probably looked at those already.
It’s easier – we’re not being arrogant here, as in ‘hey look, we’re helicopter pilots,’ however there’s little doubt that helicopter flying is more intensive and requires the acquisition of more pure handling skills than a fixed wing licence. Hovering for example is extremely hands-on and we could add to that list. However, don’t let that deter you. Our pilots tell us that this is part of the attraction.
Cons Against Fixed Wing
It gets boring after a while. Seriously, we do hear that a lot. When you’re restricted to operating from one airport to another, there are only so many expensive airport burgers you can eat before the novelty wears off.
You’re restricted to airports and airfields. If security fences and hi-vis vests are your thing, then that’s fine. We prefer to walk outside to the helicopter, climb aboard and fly. It’s a big thing for us and one of the pivotal reasons why we are based where we are. Airports are like motorway service stations – somewhere to get fuel and an expensive sandwich.
Helicopter Pros and Cons
It’s waaaay cooler. Sorry but we had to say that. Fixed wing guys will deny it for sure, however we all know that it is the truth. Deep down inside, they’re jealous.
We don’t need airports. As we have already said, if runways are your thing then that’s fine. However the time consuming process of driving to the airfield, booking out, taxiing to the hold and so forth kind of takes the edge off it for us. And if you’re still reading this, you probably know what we mean by now.
We prefer to simply walk outside, climb aboard and fly. Sounds cool and casual, right? That’s because it is.
However that doesn’t mean that we are complacent on safety. Safety is paramount. End of story.
We constantly focus on safety at all times, not just as you learn but continually afterwards. It’s just that we prefer not to have white shirts, epaulettes and big watches to prove it. So beneath our laid back love of the freedom of helicopter flight, we are deadly serious about safety. And when you join us to learn to fly, you will be too…in a good way.
It’s quite simply the only way to travel. Once you have departed from your own location and flown your friends and loved ones directly to a hotel, a race circuit or a golf course, then you will know what we mean.
It’s a far far better view. Nearly all light aircraft have the engine directly in front of the pilot. The engine, plus propellor, and instrument panel all restrict the view both forwards and downwards. Add in wings, either above you or, even worse, below you and you have a view that is far from perfect. Ask any fixed wing instructor about blind spots and they will talk for hours.
A Robinson R44 helicopter has an almost uninterrupted vew in all directions apart from directly behind. That in itself is worth the money.
That sense of achievement. It is quite simply one of the most satisfying things you will ever achieve. Even professional helicopter pilots of many years standing still admit to a feeling of great accomplishment being able to claim that they are helicopter pilots. It’s something that nobody can describe, however you will certainly feel it when you qualify.
The fact that you will have achieved something that only a small niche of aviators have achieved is quite something.
The article is part of a series that aim to answer all of the questions you’ve ever had if you’re thinking of learning to fly helicopters. You can read the first post here, or click the links below for the rest of the series