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Why Did Everyone Overestimate Helicopters?  
User currently offlinetimz From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 6842 posts, RR: 7
Posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 14232 times:

Back in the 1950s, I mean. Here's Aviation Week for 24 August 1953:

[Headline on the article is "Big Copters May Replace DC-3s by '59"]

"Only six years away is the prospect of fleets of 30- to 50-passenger helicopter buses competing directly with surface carriers for shorthaul inter-city public transportation.

"That is the outlook projected last week by the Air Transport Assn.'s helicopter committee in a significant report, which fits together today's known copter factors with tomorrow's probabilities."

Presumably their biggest error was underestimating helicopter operating costs by some huge factor-- the report hoped a helicopter would have a "direct flight cost" per mile not exceeding "present twin-engine aircraft" on a 200-mile flight. Article doesn't say what "direct" means. How would a large helicopter compare with a twin-prop aircraft of the same capacity now?

So if they did get costs wrong, why did they have so little idea what they actually cost, in 1953?

[Edited 2012-06-21 15:35:16]

51 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineOzarkD9S From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 5128 posts, RR: 21
Reply 1, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 14141 times:

There was a high profile crash in NYC (don't remember the date) that certainly didn't help. 'Copter service seems to go in and out of vogue at times, and these days would rarely be an option for except the most well-heeled travelers. I liked some of the VTOL concepts from the past, and sometimes wonder if such a design would be economical with today's technological advances.


Next Up: STL-EWR-STL for my first mileage run!
User currently offlineseabosdca From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 5532 posts, RR: 6
Reply 2, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 14082 times:

Quoting timz (Thread starter):
Presumably their biggest error was underestimating helicopter operating costs by some huge factor

There you go. There's a reason it's people like Mayor Bloomberg who like to use helicopters for personal travel.

The technology was new... with new technology, you're never sure how far you can refine it. They were too optimistic.

[Edited 2012-06-21 15:59:33]

User currently offlineAesma From France, joined Nov 2009, 6692 posts, RR: 12
Reply 3, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 13956 times:

I'm no expert in helicopters but I would guess they suck far more fuel (maybe not a concern at the time), and need far more maintenance since you really want to avoid any mechanical difficulty, when a twin engined plane can lose an engine or a propeller or a gearbox without much trouble.


New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
User currently offlinetonystan From Ireland, joined Jan 2006, 1441 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 13886 times:

Real shame it didnt "take off", cos I would have loved to have flown in one of these....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9633v6U0wo



My views are my own and do not reflect any other person or organisation.
User currently offlinefrmrCapCadet From United States of America, joined May 2008, 1720 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 13760 times:

When I was off the coast of Vietnam in the late 60s I got lectured about not flying about for the fun of it in helicopters, and that most deaths in the fleet likely would be helicopter related. This is no longer true, helicopters are much safer, but I suspect that it came at a cost. Bettter engineering, materials, engines, transmissions. Helicopters are far more complicated and difficult to keep safely in the air.


Buffet: the airline business...has eaten up capital...like..no other (business)
User currently offline2175301 From United States of America, joined May 2007, 1072 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 13728 times:

Helicopters also are a lot noisier - and it would add a lot of weight to shield the sound. The two times I have been on helicopters a muff style headset (either plain sound reduction ear muffs or communication set) was required. Talking with your seatmate in a normal conversation was all but impossible. I do not see that most passengers would be interested in that experience.

User currently offlinecal764 From United States of America, joined May 2008, 377 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 13627 times:

Remember the partnership CO and DL had with US Helicopter? Flights from EWR & JFK to Bridgeport CT, Wall Street, Manhattan and a few others..partnership ended prior to their merger with UA but it seemed valuable while it lasted, USH now defunct.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Helicopter



1. Fly to Win 2. Fund Future 3. Reliability 4. Work Together CO: Work Hard, Fly Right...
User currently offlineAR385 From Mexico, joined Nov 2003, 6246 posts, RR: 31
Reply 8, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 13522 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

The Mi-8 says hi...

I´m not so sure what the OP means by "overestimating". In many roles the helicopter has been pretty successful and the only option.


User currently offlineHAL From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 2561 posts, RR: 53
Reply 9, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 13157 times:

The basic problem comes from a clash between the human desire for something 'cool', and the costly reality. In concept, helicopters can do some amazing things, and if the cost was low & safety/reliability high, the sky would be filled with them. Unfortunately the reality is that they are complex, expensive, and require a whole lot of maintenance per flight hour. The safety factor has improved greatly over the years, but it'd done so at the expense of... expense. A 7-seat helicopter is several times the cost to buy, operate, and service than an equivalent sized airplane. It can do amazing things that planes can't do, but only if the owners really, really need that job done at the given cost.

HAL



One smooth landing is skill. Two in a row is luck. Three in a row and someone is lying.
User currently offlineADent From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 1387 posts, RR: 2
Reply 10, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 13036 times:

Helicopters are expensive. Expensive to buy. Expensive to maintain. They burn more fuel.

Helicopters are slow - 150 is fast by helicopter standards.

Safety is not as good as fixed wing.

[Edited 2012-06-22 00:34:21]

User currently offlinemaxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 1103 posts, RR: 7
Reply 11, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 12997 times:

Quoting OzarkD9S (Reply 1):
There was a high profile crash in NYC (don't remember the date) that certainly didn't help

That would be the New York Airways Boeing-Vertol crash on top of the Pan Am building in 1977.

The original helicopter airlines of the 1950s - New York Airways, Chicago Helicopter Airlines and Los Angeles Airways - all suffered horrific accidents due to catastrophic mechanical failures. But it was the imposible operating economics that did them all in.

Trivia question - what major U.S. airline operated scheduled helicopter service in 1954-55?


User currently offlinefoxxray From France, joined May 2005, 386 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 12390 times:

Helicopters have their own market, SAR/Medevac, police, military, ENG... and they are complementary to business jets/prop.
But it is true that it is almost impossible to operate on scheduled commercial flights due to its high operating cost.

Quoting ADent (Reply 10):
Safety is not as good as fixed wing.

Your source please ?


User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 13, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 11892 times:

Quoting foxxray (Reply 12):
Quoting ADent (Reply 10):
Safety is not as good as fixed wing.

Your source please ?

Pick the regulatory accident DB of your choice...helicopter frame crashes are far more likely (something like a factor of 10) than airliner crashes. It gets worse if you normalize by RPK because helicopters tend to fly less distance with less people.

Tom.


User currently offlinebueb0g From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2010, 644 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 10771 times:

Quoting foxxray (Reply 12):
Your source please ?

As Tom as said, look at practically any database; accident rate (as in accident per flying hours) for GA helicopters is around 10 times worse than for GA fixed wing. Not sure about the commercial figures, guess it's similar.



Roger roger, what's our vector, victor?
User currently offlinedelta2ual From United States of America, joined Dec 2007, 620 posts, RR: 1
Reply 15, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 10058 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 11):
what major U.S. airline operated scheduled helicopter service in 1954-55?

Pan Am?



From the world's largest airline-to the world's largest airline. Delta2ual
User currently offlinespokemd From United States of America, joined May 2005, 97 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 9922 times:

Pan Am Helicopter Baggage Tag


Not sure if Pan Am ran the service in the 54-55 time period but they did have helicopter service. Did Pan Am run this or was it contracted out?



kjot-kgai
User currently offlineWA707atMSP From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 2231 posts, RR: 8
Reply 17, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 9797 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 11):
Trivia question - what major U.S. airline operated scheduled helicopter service in 1954-55?

National, from West Palm Beach to Miami via intermediate stops.

Quoting HAL (Reply 9):
Unfortunately the reality is that they are complex, expensive, and require a whole lot of maintenance per flight hour

One of my friends summed this up succinctly, albiet a little overdramatically, with this quote:

"There is a reason why there are historic aircraft fly ins, but not historic helicopter fly ins".



Seaholm Maples are #1!
User currently offlinetsnamm From United States of America, joined May 2005, 628 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 9552 times:

This has always been a dream of aviation enthusiasts...large passenger helicopters, tilt wings or vtol aircraft operating from downtown to downtown...considering all the arguments about which airport is "more convenient" to this or that city or area, it seems that if it could ever be worked out properly, someone could make a lot of money with the idea. I would think business travellers would consider paying a premium for downtown to downtown city center service, that would save time and offer convenience. I was hoping there might be a commercial version of the V-22 that could carry passengers say from Manhattan to downtown BOS, PHL etc....however the noise issue is an environmental impact many of the futurists failed to take into account.One of many hurdles before such service could be considered....

User currently offlinemaxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 1103 posts, RR: 7
Reply 19, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 8918 times:

Quoting WA707atMSP (Reply 17):
Quoting WA707atMSP (Reply 17):
ational, from West Palm Beach to Miami via intermediate stops.

WA707atMSP gets the grand prize, as soon as I figure out what it is!

National operated a Sikorsky S-55 on the route WA707 mentioned above. Not only was it a money loser, but several communities served eventually banned the operation because of noise!

National helicopter schedules are at lower right corner of 1954 NAL timetable below:



http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/complete/na54/na54-2.jpg

[Edited 2012-06-22 09:30:16]

User currently offlineEWRandMDW From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 416 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 8205 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 11):
That would be the New York Airways Boeing-Vertol crash on top of the Pan Am building in 1977.

I don't mean to be too picky, but that crash involved a Sikorsky S61. Another NY S61 suffered a tail rotor failure shortly after lifting off from EWR and crashed between 22L and 22R killing at least 3 people on board. That was ~ 1980.

My very first commercial flight was on a NY B-V 107 from EWR to JFK back in 1966. I have to say, 14 minutes flight time between airports sure beat 1 1/2+ hrs drive time between them, even 46 years ago!


User currently offlinemaxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 1103 posts, RR: 7
Reply 21, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 7842 times:

Quoting EWRandMDW (Reply 20):
I don't mean to be too picky, but that crash involved a Sikorsky S61

Not picky at all, I relied on my memory and was too lazy to look it up! Thanks for the correction.


User currently offlinefoxxray From France, joined May 2005, 386 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 7529 times:

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 13):
Pick the regulatory accident DB of your choice...helicopter frame crashes are far more likely (something like a factor of 10) than airliner crashes. It gets worse if you normalize by RPK because helicopters tend to fly less distance with less people.

How many due to technical issue ?

Most of the accidents are due to pilot errors like on airplane... And i quoted " safety not as good as fixed wing" not as good as airliners... Fixed wing can be a PA18 or an A380 and the factor souldn't be of 10 !


User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 23, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 6621 times:

Quoting foxxray (Reply 22):
How many due to technical issue ?

I haven't run the numbers but, based on past reviews, I'd guess it's about 1/3 mechanical, 2/3 pilot error for helicopters...which is way more mechanical than for fixed wing.

Quoting foxxray (Reply 22):
Most of the accidents are due to pilot errors like on airplane... And i quoted " safety not as good as fixed wing" not as good as airliners... Fixed wing can be a PA18 or an A380 and the factor souldn't be of 10 !

I agree that most are pilot error in either case but that's not helping you...helicopters crash more often in absolute terms and they have more mechanical failures (in both relative and absolute terms), all once your normalize for flight hours. That's still true even if you expand from "airliners" to "fixed wings". It may not be a factor of 10 for all accidents but the record is very clear that the helicopter safety record is not as good as fixed wing by pretty much any metric you can think of.

Tom.


User currently offlineFVTu134 From Russia, joined Aug 2005, 173 posts, RR: 1
Reply 24, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 6035 times:

the cost part is simple. In an twin engine airplane, you have two engines, two propellers and maybe a bit of hydraulics for the gear etc.. Simple. Now count the moving parts on a helicopter, gearboxes, axles, blades, rotorheads, etc etc... all those parts are lifed to a certain number of hours (sometimes not even high). That brings parts replacement cost as well as maintenance hours to replace those parts.
As one who flies both fixed and rotary wing, I still think that helicopter pilots are probably more "aware". My grandmother could fly a C172, but she couldn't fly an R22 even though with a bit of training it is absolute fun to fly. I'm also one of those who would for most of the times chose an engine out landing in a helicopter over an engine out landing in an airplane.

FVTu134



who decided that a Horizon should be HORIZONtal???
25 Post contains images SEPilot : The real reason is that helicopters do not really fly-they just beat the air into submission.
26 Post contains links Viscount724 : Sabena operated scheduled helicopter services for several years in the 1950s and 60s. At the peak they served a dozen destinations in Belgium and 4 ne
27 jamincan : Could the missions that helicopters are involved in also be a factor in the accident rate? Generally speaking it seems that helicopters are used in mo
28 Post contains images starrymarkb : There is a scheduled Helicopter Service from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly, run by British International. It isn't cheap (£110 day return, £190 pe
29 Post contains links AirlineCritic : Copter services are operating on some routes. For a long time, there has been a scheduled helicopter service between Helsinki and Tallinn: http://fi.w
30 tdscanuck : Yes, that's absolutely a factor. However, you can't really normalize for it because helicopters are doing those missions because of what helicopters
31 Post contains links Viscount724 : Helijet (JB) has been operating scheduled helicopter service between Vancouver and Victoria, the British Columbia provincial capital on Vancouver Isl
32 robsaw : How many futurist visions arising in the 50's actually came into being, at least within the 20 - 30 yr time-frame projected? We now have things like w
33 Post contains links dfambro : Another example is Sky Shuttle, which serves Macau - Hong Kong and Macau - Shenzhen. The real high rollers go by Sky Shuttle, while the hoi polloi ga
34 tsnamm : exactly! lol...with the 120mph speed limits,and everyone dressed in silver Lost in Space clothing, and metal highways...the future's not what it used
35 vatveng : I was promised flying cars! Where are the flying cars?
36 bwvilla : we have at least some of this in Germany already.....
37 n5014k : When I was a little kid in the 1950's I had a Golden Book about helicopters. The last page had a picture of a family pulling the family copter out of
38 tp1040 : A helo mechanic explained the difference between maintenance costs of helicopters vs. airplanes. On helos, you are required to replace parts based on
39 Post contains images moose135 : Considering half the drivers on the LIE? I'd go find a cave to live in!
40 DeltaMD90 : In regards to safety, most passenger planes have more that one engine, the helicopter has one rotor (most of the time and for the ones that have more
41 flyingcaT : Sigh Can you imagine what we missed out on. Insults- "Where did you learn to hover!, Clown school??" ads Aim the skids at the arches for a Big Mac. C
42 tdscanuck : Airplanes have life-limited parts too, and helicopters have on-condition parts. The balance is just skewed...helicopters have a lot more heavily load
43 jamincan : Isn't auto-rotation basically akin to gliding? You won't get as far, but it's not like the helicopter just falls out of the air in the case of engine
44 r2rho : I don't think accident rates are the problem - remember, back in those days airplane crashes were pretty common too. Today helicopters are much safer
45 rwessel : There are many multi-engined helicopters - they just use a transmission to power the rotor* from all the engines. An engine failure just leaves the o
46 Post contains links and images longhauler : Only if the rotor, transmission and blades are still intact ... not always the case! Air Canada too operated a helicopter service, from YYZ to downto
47 DeltaMD90 : Ah, that makes more sense. I think I'm thinking of war-time failures... bullets/RPGs will often disable some important parts very easily...
48 Post contains links and images BE77 : Like this? http://www.metro.co.uk/news/143793-row-over-william-helicopter-landing At the time, I recall one of the tab's referring to the Prince land
49 EASTERN747 : In the early 70's there was helicopter service from BWI-IAD-DCA. I used it once to go from BWI-IAD to catch AF to Paris. Sat next to the captain and i
50 Viscount724 : AC didn't operate it themselves. If memory correct the helicopter was owned and operated by Canadian Helicopters Ltd.
51 longhauler : No, being just an experiment, AC would not have operated it. Canadian Helicopters didn't own the aircraft until 1990, I think it was run by Toronto H
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