Helicopter vs. Plane: Which is Better for a Charter Flight?
There’s nothing quite like private aviation.
Once you swap the lengthy line-ups and cramped seats of flying commercially for the superior convenience and comfort of flying privately, it’s highly unlikely you’ll purchase a seat on a commercial airliner again.
With so many private aircraft charter options to choose from, you may find yourself wondering which is better: helicopter vs plane?
Let’s compare and contrast airplanes and helicopters so you can make an informed decision when booking a charter flight. We’ll review charter jet and private helicopter pricing, safety, comfort, performance, and more.
The Benefits of Helicopter Charters
It’s no secret that helicopters can be more versatile than fixed-wing aircraft. Without the need of a runway, a helicopter can drop you down into some of the hardest-to-reach areas around the globe. That includes the tops of buildings in the most crowded cities.
Other benefits of private helicopters include:
- Potentially saving time by skipping the ground transportation portion of traveling to and from and airport
- The flexibility of arriving at more than one location in a day
- The ability to land in a variety of locations at any time
When Should I Charter a Helicopter vs a Plane?
You may want to consider a helicopter charter if you plan on making multiple stops in a short period of time.
Consider popping into a meeting in a busy downtown core and then heading to a ski resort, private residence or yacht equipped with a helipad shortly afterward. A private helicopter flight offers this kind of valuable convenience.
It’s also a solid option if you need to touch down in a remote location that isn’t serviced by jets or turboprop aircraft.
One important note in the helicopter vs. plane debate: helicopters generally cover significantly less distance with a full tank of fuel than can private jets. If your multiple stops are all within a few hundred miles of each other, it likely won’t be a problem.
If you’re planning a longer-distance journey, a charter jet can be more efficient while also offering convenience and comfort.
The Benefits of Fixed-wing Charters
Hiring a private jet is ideal for longer trips. They can reach further destinations and provide more amenities, like bathrooms, galleys, and bedrooms as compared to helicopters. That makes charter jets an ideal choice in those situations.
Other notable benefits include:
- The ability to fly farther distances than helicopters
- The reduction of layovers found when traveling via commercial airline
- Less time spent in an airport as opposed to commercial travel
- The ability to travel with furry companions
- The flexibility to arrive and depart on your own personal schedule
To summarize, helicopters are great when you’re hopping around a city or remote location and need to make multiple stops in a single day. Jets are preferable for longer distances and a more comfortable overall experience.
Which is Safer: Helicopter or Airplane?
No matter which aircraft you plan to charter, the goal of every operator and broker should be to provide the safest flight possible. Before you book a charter flight, you must always look at their safety policies and history of flights.
Not all brokers are created equal, and it’s important that the broker you choose to hire is reputable and professional.
In terms of helicopters vs. planes, both methods of transportation are extremely safe when all regulations are adhered to.
Helicopter Safety and Regulations
Statistically, helicopter charters carry a little more risk than private jets and commercial airliners and they’re governed by fewer regulations.
The FAA’s Helicopter Flying Handbook states that the bulk of the helicopter maintenance responsibility, in-flight decision-making, and pre-flight weather conditions lie with the pilot. They’re also not required to come equipped with a black box the same way commercial aircraft are.
Before you book a helicopter charter, it’s important to have a candid conversation with the pilot and aircraft owner. You should consider asking questions like:
- How old is the helicopter?
- Has the aircraft been properly maintained?
- Are there maintenance records available?
- Are there any open discrepancies on the helicopter?
- How long have you been a helicopter pilot for?
Fixed-wing Aircraft Safety and Regulations
For aircraft based in the United States, there are certain regulations in place to ensure air charter safety. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees and regulates all non-commercial flying. Charter companies booking on-demand flights as regulated under Part 135, which applies to aircraft with 10 or fewer passengers. Major airlines must adhere to Part 121 regulations.
Many of these charter companies also employee in-house safety
Helicopter vs Plane: A Brief Summary
|How the aircraft generates lift||Rotor blades mounted on top (or in some cases, sides) generate lift.||Fixed wings generate lift once they are in motion and enough air is flowing over them|
|Stability||Helicopters are less stable in the air. They require a second rotor to keep the body from spinning, and this makes them harder to operate.||Airplanes are fairly stable and easily return to a balanced position if all control inputs are neutralized.|
|Safety||Helicopters can be safer than general aviation, but aren’t as rigorously monitored as commercial aviation.||Commercial jets have a fatality rate of one death per 2.7 million flights, so that makes them one of the safest method of transportation currently available.|
|Service Ceiling||The majority of helicopters have a service ceiling ranging from 10,000 feet to 20,000 feet.||For commercial jet airliners, the service ceiling is around 40,000 feet. Many military fighter jets and aircraft used in private aviation often have a service ceiling around 41,000 to 50,000 feet.|
|Speed and Range||Helicopters are slower and have a shorter range than fixed-wing aircraft. This is compensated by their maneuverability.||Jets can cruise at high speeds, using much less fuel than helicopters. This makes them the ideal choice for long-haul flights.|
|Uses||Helicopters are the aircraft of choice for short distances when a runway is not available.||Airplanes are typically used for longer flights|
|Costs||How much does a helicopter cost? Cost varies significantly, but an initial investment in the mid-six-figure range is a good estimate.
Helicopters are generally more expensive to operate and purchase than standard, similarly sized fixed-wing aircraft and are generally produced in smaller quantities. Because they have so many moving parts, servicing them can be expensive. They also require a lot of fuel to keep them aloft.
|Private jets are generally more efficient with fuel, larger, have more amenities, and use different technology than helicopters. Purchasing a private jet represents a more significant expense than a helicopter.|
However, purchasing a private jet is far from the only option for private jet travel. Charter jets offer a powerful combination of flexibility, access, and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, there are no maintenance costs or similar complexities included in a charter flight.
Wondering about the costs of chartering a private jet or helicopter? Our charter jet price calculator can help you find a specific estimate for your trip.
Ready to book a charter aircraft for your upcoming trip? Lean on the aviation experts at Stratos Jet Charters. We only work with the best operators in the industry, so you can rest assured your charter flight will be safe, comfortable, and luxurious. Request a free quote today!