timz From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 6465 posts, RR: 8 Posted (11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 13336 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?
OzarkD9S From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 4680 posts, RR: 24 Reply 1, posted (11 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13245 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.
Aesma From France, joined Nov 2009, 4768 posts, RR: 9 Reply 3, posted (11 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13060 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
frmrCapCadet From United States of America, joined May 2008, 1501 posts, RR: 1 Reply 5, posted (11 months 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 12864 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)
2175301 From United States of America, joined May 2007, 982 posts, RR: 0 Reply 6, posted (11 months 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 12832 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.
cal764 From United States of America, joined May 2008, 366 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (11 months 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 12731 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...
HAL From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 2465 posts, RR: 53 Reply 9, posted (11 months 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 12261 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.
One smooth landing is skill. Two in a row is luck. Three in a row and someone is lying.
maxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 854 posts, RR: 5 Reply 11, posted (11 months 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 12101 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?
foxxray From France, joined May 2005, 353 posts, RR: 0 Reply 12, posted (11 months 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 11494 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.
tdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 81 Reply 13, posted (11 months 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 10996 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.
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.
tsnamm From United States of America, joined May 2005, 601 posts, RR: 0 Reply 18, posted (11 months 1 day ago) and read 8656 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....
EWRandMDW From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 379 posts, RR: 0 Reply 20, posted (11 months 22 hours ago) and read 7309 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!
foxxray From France, joined May 2005, 353 posts, RR: 0 Reply 22, posted (11 months 21 hours ago) and read 6633 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 !
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.
FVTu134 From Russia, joined Aug 2005, 168 posts, RR: 1 Reply 24, posted (11 months 18 hours ago) and read 5139 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.
who decided that a Horizon should be HORIZONtal???
Viscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 21448 posts, RR: 24 Reply 26, posted (11 months 12 hours ago) and read 4758 times:
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 neighbouring countries. I think it was the world's first scheduled international helicopter service.
jamincan From Canada, joined Aug 2006, 764 posts, RR: 0 Reply 27, posted (10 months 4 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 4260 times:
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 more dangerous scenarios (heli-logging, long-lining, offshore transport etc.).
That said, they are ridiculously expensive to operate. I forget the exact figure, but one of the pilots at a recent job mentioned a figure in the neighbourhood of $100-$200 for ten minutes of flying. Considering I've worked in exploration camps where they have had four of those things operating for as long as the pilots have hours to fly and daylight to fly in, they are an easy way to blow a budget.
starrymarkb From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2011, 91 posts, RR: 0 Reply 28, posted (10 months 4 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 4189 times:
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 period return) for a 20 minute flight but I am tempted to give it a try if I can afford it!
To compare Skybus (Fixed Wing) charges £95 for a day or £120 for a period return to the Islands.
The copter takes 18 minutes to cross the sea. The fastest competing boat services take an hour and half, and cheaper boats take three hours. I've done this route once, it is very nice service but it does make your ears ring the whole day afterwards, even with earplugs during the trip. One way discount ticket costs start from somewhere above 100 €, regular tickets seem to be about 250 €.
Competing airline services take maybe half an hour, but then I have to travel to the airport which is further away and spend at least an hour there waiting. The Copterline service is easy; just a taxi to their base and if you are right on time, pretty much step right away to the aircraft. On the Tallinn side you can walk to the city center, in Helsinki you are a couple of kilometers away.
In 2005, fourteen people died when their copter crashed in the sea. But the flights have now been continued, apparently not quite with the same frequency and scale as before, however.
tdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 81 Reply 30, posted (10 months 4 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 3918 times:
Quoting jamincan (Reply 27): Could the missions that helicopters are involved in also be a factor in the accident rate?
Yes, that's absolutely a factor. However, you can't really normalize for it because helicopters are doing those missions because of what helicopters can do...having airplanes do those missions isn't an option. Helicopters are inherently more dangerous because of their mechanical and aerodynamic complexity, which is the price you pay for being able to do those missions at all.
Viscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 21448 posts, RR: 24 Reply 31, posted (10 months 4 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 3673 times:
Quoting AirlineCritic (Reply 29): Copter services are operating on some routes. For a long time, there has been a scheduled helicopter service between Helsinki and Tallinn:
Helijet (JB) has been operating scheduled helicopter service between Vancouver and Victoria, the British Columbia provincial capital on Vancouver Island, for 26 years, using 12-seat Sikorsky S-76s. Current schedule has 6 to 7 daily flights Monday-Friday and 4 on weekends. I think it's more frequent in the winter when there's more business traffic. It's popular with business travellers with the Vancouver terminal adjacent to the city center and the Victoria terminal a 5 minute drive (compared to a half-hour drive in both cases to/from the airports...Victoria's airport is about 16 miles from the city center.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=b5yZHiRXSHI http://www.helijet.com/scheduled-services
Helijet's service competes with frequent float-plane service, in addition to the regular air service beween the airports, and of course the ferries.
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 the garage getting ready to tool around town. Imagine if all the cars on the Long Island Expressway were to be replaced by individual helicopters. Literally the sky was the limit in those days. The main thing missing in the book was the speculation that someday helicopters would be powered by nuclear energy.
Quoting ADent (Reply 10): Trivia question - what major U.S. airline operated scheduled helicopter service in 1954-55?
There are some photos of the National helicopter service in the George Cearley book about National. I also recall Mohawk ran a scheduled helicopter service from the NYC area (I forget which airport) to the Catskills. It didn't last long.
I also flew on an Atlanta-based helicopter airline called The Time Machine. I used to take it between ATL and the Perimeter Mall area. This would have been in the early 1980's, I think. Great service, but I always was the only passenger on board (seated 4). It landed in the GA area of ATL and a shuttle ran you over to the terminal. I figured the light loads meant I had better use it as often as possible before it went under, which was pretty soon, as it turned out.
tp1040 From United States of America, joined Apr 2011, 157 posts, RR: 0 Reply 38, posted (10 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2296 times:
A helo mechanic explained the difference between maintenance costs of helicopters vs. airplanes. On helos, you are required to replace parts based on hours, on airplanes you inspect parts and replace if necessary.
I know that is it a simplistic explanation, but I understood the meaning.
DeltaMD90 From United States of America, joined Apr 2008, 5284 posts, RR: 47 Reply 40, posted (10 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2241 times:
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 than one, it needs the other(s) to operate.) Even if a plane loses all its engines, it can still glide. In a helicopter, you can do some things to make the crash less painful, but you're pretty much screwed.
I know in the US military most of the accidents involving aircraft are rotary wing. I know that may be apples to oranges due to the mission and vulnerability, but I'm trying to get fixed wing myself... helicopters just have too many moving parts for my tastes
tdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 81 Reply 42, posted (10 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 2135 times:
Quoting tp1040 (Reply 38): A helo mechanic explained the difference between maintenance costs of helicopters vs. airplanes. On helos, you are required to replace parts based on hours, on airplanes you inspect parts and replace if necessary.
Airplanes have life-limited parts too, and helicopters have on-condition parts. The balance is just skewed...helicopters have a lot more heavily loaded fatigue critical parts (tend to be life-limited).
"The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by it's nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by a deliberately incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying; immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter. This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed, buoyant extroverts and helicopter pilots are brooding introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened it is about to." by Harry Reasoner Feb 16, 1971
r2rho From Germany, joined Feb 2007, 2245 posts, RR: 1 Reply 44, posted (10 months 3 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 1775 times:
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 than back then, they still crash more among other things because of the type of missions the perform - typically risky places where no other vehicle can get to. But regular, safe, reliable helicopter passenger transport does exist - ask anyone who works on an oil rig.
The reasons helicopters haven't made it past niche applications into the mass air passenger market is mainly their operating costs and performance limitations. The ability to hover and VTOL is useful and very nice to have, but comes at a high price in terms of aircraft performance and operating costs. Where you don't need the hover & VTOL capability, a turboprop for instance can do the same or better mission, faster and cheaper. Just to give you an idea:
- Two GE CT7's at 1750shp power the CN-235, a tactical transport with up to 6t payload / 51 pax / 35 paratroops / 18 stretchers, 245kts speed, 390-1200nm range depending on payload (2700nm ferry).
- Two GE CT7's (T700 military designation) also power the UH-60, AW101 or NH90, among others. The UH60 can carry 1.2t internal cargo / 14 troops / 6 stretchers or 4t of external cargo, fly at 150kts, 320nm combat / 1200nm ferry range.
That's a hell of a performance price to pay for the ability to VTOL (operating costs aside) so you better have a good need for it!
rwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 1984 posts, RR: 2 Reply 45, posted (10 months 3 weeks 5 days ago) and read 1651 times:
Quoting DeltaMD90 (Reply 40): 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 than one, it needs the other(s) to operate.) Even if a plane loses all its engines, it can still glide. In a helicopter, you can do some things to make the crash less painful, but you're pretty much screwed.
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 other engine(s) driving the rotor. Actual rotor failures are rare.
*On multi-rotor helicopters, it's approximately universal that all rotors are driven from the same transmission (usually there's some drive shafts interconnecting things), so again a single engine failure leaves the other engine(s) connected to, and driving, all the rotors.
DeltaMD90 From United States of America, joined Apr 2008, 5284 posts, RR: 47 Reply 47, posted (10 months 3 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 1570 times:
Quoting rwessel (Reply 45): 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 other engine(s) driving the rotor. Actual rotor failures are rare.
Ah, that makes more sense. I think I'm thinking of war-time failures... bullets/RPGs will often disable some important parts very easily...
Quoting r2rho (Reply 44): But regular, safe, reliable helicopter passenger transport does exist - ask anyone who works on an oil rig.
Considering the small number of people moved vs the frequency of fatalities, the numbers (and a lot of people in Scotland, Newfoundland, and Louisiana) challenge the safe and reliable aspect. When compared to the bad old says, it is certainly a lot safer. Also, when compared to just the 'regular' jobs the oil workers have, it is also fairly safe.
But as mentioned, a comparison to 'regular' shows quite a gap. It could well be that helo's in scheduled pax travel are indeed as safe as the airlines were 10 or 20 years ago, but that is not comparable to today's industry.