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Why is luxury air travel by helicopter popular?

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Regardless of where you are in the world or what language you speak, someone making an entrance via a helicopter indicates that he or she is a big deal. Once considered the preserve of the rich and famous, things have changed dramatically in recent years as private helicopters have become more accessible than ever, whilst losing none of their excitement or efficiency.

A taste of the high-life
Whilst it’s true that more and more people are choosing to travel by helicopter, it still retains a sense of luxury and sophistication. A flight on a commercial airline involves tedious journeys to crowded airports, waiting in line for security checks and regular flight delays. Flying by helicopter, however, is an altogether more refined experience. Helicopters usually operate from private airfields, so there are no crowds to contend with, and no delays for security clearance. Passengers are treated courteously at all times, and there are often luxurious extras, such as elegant waiting lounges, personal assistants and gourmet snacks.

Fast journey times
Getting anywhere in the UK by road, rail or commercial flight can be a frustrating experience. With helicopter travel, it’s fast and easy to get to where you need to be. Travelling by car from London to Oxford, for example, would take at least two hours and that’s assuming a lack of traffic. In contrast, if you were to travel by helicopter, the journey would take just 30 minutes.

Comfort and style
There’s no denying that travelling by helicopter offers a high degree of comfort and style. The cramped seats offered by the budget airlines are nowhere to be seen, and passengers can sit back and relax in spacious and comfortable surroundings. Luxury and star treatment sits at the heart of the entire experience and extends beyond the flight itself. It’s undeniably a pleasure to stroll through the terminal building after a helicopter trip, with no crowds or hustle and bustle.

Access all areas
Since helicopters don’t need a fixed runway to land, they can go almost anywhere within legal boundaries. Chartering a private helicopter is an ideal way of visiting out of the way locations, such as country estates, vineyards, golf courses and luxury hotels. Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure, flying directly to your venue by helicopter is the most impactful way to arrive!

Combine business and pleasure
One of the beauties of private helicopter travel is that the flight path really is up to you. If you want to take in some sightseeing on the way to an important business meeting, all you need to do is arrange it beforehand with your charter company. Therefore instead of your usual boring commute, even the most routine of trips become infinitely more memorable. Little can compete with flying over the London skyline, spotting familiar tourist destinations and looking out for lesser known places that are usually hidden from view. How many people, for example, can say that they’ve seen the gardens of Buckingham Palace from the air? That frequent business journey along the M4 will be even less appealing after you’ve flown by helicopter, following the winding path of the River Thames instead. No matter where you are travelling to, flying by helicopter makes every journey an adventure.

Where Can a Private Helicopter Land?

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If you’re looking to buy a helicopter or are interested in utilising helicopter charter services, one of the main considerations you might have is where you might be allowed to land. Aside from the obvious things like capacity, engine size and the distance you might be able to travel, this is the one other thing that could restrict your travel options in a chartered helicopter. Generally speaking, the requirements for a landing site are a flat area of ground about the size of 2 tennis courts, with no obstructions.

But what happens when you have different helicopters of different sizes and speeds? The law states it is the responsibility of the pilot to ensure that the layout of the landing site is within the performance capability of his or her helicopter. One of the key things to remember is that, unless a helicopter is taking off or landing in accordance with normal practice, it is not allowed to fly within 500 feet of a person, vehicle or structure. This is something worth considering if you live in an urban area or are planning to fly to built-up places. If you’re hoping to land on an elevated site within a city, such as a rooftop landing pad, you’ll need a twin helicopter.

There’s also a key rule pilots use when navigating over busy, urban areas, often referred to as the “1,000 Foot Rule”. This means that if you’re above an urban area, you must stay at a height of at least 1,000 feet above the highest fixed object within 600 meters of the helicopter. Therefore when approaching a particularly high landmark, such as a cathedral or office tower, your helicopter will need to increase its altitude before it gets within 600 meters.

If you’re considering buying your own helicopter, or having a chartered helicopter service land on private property that you own, there are obvious exceptions to the general rules. Helicopters that are landing in the confines of private property are exempt from planning consent, making personal travel for work or leisure somewhat easier.

As expected, the penalties for deviating from proper landing protocol are quite severe. As recently as 2015, a pilot was fined £1,700 for illegal airspace entry and landing at Heathrow.

The rules outlined above may seem stringent, but they work. In almost 20 years there have only been 33 fatal incidents reported nationwide. Private helicopters are fast, efficient and safe when handled correctly and there are many places to land outside of urban zones. If you’re hoping to make use of this service to fly into urban zones that are built up, helicopter hire companies or charter helicopters will often have special arrangements in place that allow them to touch down as near to your destination as possible. For example, London has its own heliport in Battersea, and there’s even a pub with its own helipad in Oxfordshire. The majority of chartered helicopter services will own designated spots at given airports too, but if you have any particular specifications it’s always worth checking to see if they can get you closer to where you need to be.

How Far Can a Private Helicopter Fly?

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If you like the idea of flying to work every day and avoiding traffic on the ground, then you’ve no doubt aspired to swooping in via your own private helicopter. It’s easier than ever to access helicopter charter services, thanks to an innovation in design that make engines quieter and allows for further travel. But just how far can such a charter helicopter fly? It’s an important consideration, particularly if you’re looking to purchase one yourself.

As you may expect, the smaller the size of the helicopter, the smaller the fuel tank, and naturally the reduced distance it can travel. For those serious about owning a helicopter and integrating this method of travel into their day to day planning, it’s essential to not have to think about fuel stops every hundred or so miles. A typical mid-range design will be able to fly for 2.5 hours at 135 knots, for 300-350 miles without refuelling. To put that into perspective, that kind of speed and fuel efficiency will get you from London to Paris in 90 minutes. A larger model, like the Sikorsky S92 can seat up to 16 people and reach 160 mph for over 600 miles.

Simply put, there a lot of different helicopters out there with different sized fuel tanks and different maximum speeds. The key is finding one that suits your needs and fits in with the lifestyle you have planned.

Book the London MAX helicopter tour to fly for an exclusive 30 minute flight over the River Thames in London!


What does the law say?

Just like planes, helicopters have to abide by a similar set of rules laid out by the Civil Aviation Authority. If you plan on flying near busy areas, like Heathrow or other major airports, you’ll have to submit to air traffic control who will set out routes that you’re allowed to take depending on the size of your helicopter, its speed, and its engine. Access to private property can always be restricted, even if you’re the President of the United States, as the Queen illustrated when she banned Barack Obama’s fleet from landing on the Windsor Castle lawn.

Occasionally, bad weather can result in blanket bans on helicopter flights if the conditions are deemed too unsafe. Even the best-outfitted helicopters have their access restricted when conditions are at their worst, known as ‘Sea State Six’.

If you’re planning on moving between borders in your helicopter then you’ll be subjected to the same laws as private jets, though these can vary from country to country. For example, in the UK, all private flights must go through Custom, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) before they’re cleared to enter.

Ask yourself how far you need to travel

In essence, a helicopter can travel as far as your money can. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend and how far you need to travel, there will be a helicopter out there for you. If you want to try out some models to determine their suitability, there are a range of helicopter charter flights that you can take advantage of.


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