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Tue, Jul 31, 2012

Small (Rotary) Wings For Big Pilots

Helicopters May Provide An Option For Larger Flyers

By Dave Juwel

You know in the past I’ve written about how difficult it is for big pilots to find something they can fit into so they can fly like everyone else. Being 6’1”, 285 lbs, with really wide shoulders, I’ve provided a lot of comic relief trying to get into airplanes at fly-in’s. There are a lot of others out there just like me because I keep meeting them trying to get into the same non-fitting airplanes. I’m almost certain that the problem stems from the designers who design the aircraft to fit themselves only. The typical designer is slim & trim, but that‘s because being a designer doesn’t pay well, so they don’t eat as well as some of the rest of us.

All levity aside, I found a rotorcraft that fits us big guys. It’s the Sikorsky S-300C helicopter. I like it more than other helicopters for several reasons. My first reason for liking any type of aircraft is whether it fits me or not.The cockpit in this helicopter is over 54” wide, which is more than ample space for two big people, and that’s with the doors closed. Flying with the doors off gives you even more space.

Another reason you’ll like this helicopter is because it has a fully articulated rotor head with three blades. That eliminates some of the issues that you have with a semi-rigid teetering system. To be more specific, that means its not as twitchy, you don’t get fatigued from the 2-per rev shaking of the cyclic, you don’t have the risk of mast bumping on slopes, and you have higher rotor energy allowing easier and more forgiving autorotations. That’s great news, especially for older folks (that’s me) that might not be as fast to react to anomalies.

Another problem we larger people have with an aircraft is the useful load. Sometimes, even if you’re flying solo, you’ll have to do it with a minimal fuel load. Not so with this helicopter. It has a 950 lb useful load.

Another problem we big guys have is weight limited seats. You finally find something that you fit into, only to find out that the seats are limited below your weight. The cabin in this helicopter can carry 600 lbs and the seats are not weight limited.

Years ago I was learning to fly a kit built helicopter and I landed too hard which bent the skids. The Sikorsky 300C has an energy absorbing frame and oleo dampers on the skids which help to dampen hard landings.

While helicopters do not represent the most inexpensive form of flight, they are certainly the most fun and provide the greatest utility. This particular helicopter has some economical points of interest.I talked with an actual owner of this model helicopter, and he stated that an annual on his helicopter costs him the same as the annual on his fixed-wing. In addition to that, the first overhaul in this model is an engine overhaul that occurs at 1,500 hrs, and the next overhaul is the lower ball bearings-belt drive frame assembly, which occurs at 1,800 hrs. There isn't another overhaul required until 3,000 hrs. There is another helicopter on the market that requires you to overhaul the whole aircraft at 2000 hrs. Quite a difference in cost and time.

So if you're a big pilot and you're looking for something that is rugged, reliable and affordable, try the Sikorsky S-300C. Enjoy.

FMI: www.sikorsky.com

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