Helicopters - STOL Performance Isn't Free

There's a new rage in general aviation: Super STOL. Spend some time browsing Youtube and flying forums, and you're bound to come across something that features gigantic tundra tires, extended landing gear suspension, and stall speeds below what the most enhanced airspeed indicator can indicate.

Guys spend thousands of dollars building these aircraft to fly low-and-slow. To be able to land on sand bars, and takeoff with a 0 foot ground run. And, sure, that's fine. But maybe they should look into buying a helicopter for their next aircraft purchase. Their takeoff run is practically 0, their landing run is practically 0, and the cost to buy and maintain them would appear to be about the same.

That doesn't mean everyone should leave their STOL aircraft behind, and flock to helicopters. And, it is not because we here at Gemco really like helicopters, and don't want a flood of people in the market to come along and jack the price up to infinity and beyond. No. It's because helicopters, just like airplanes, have their own unique costs associated with them that change the game on how someone should address their maintenance budgeting.

Most piston engine helicopters have strict life limits on how long they can be used before getting a serious look from a certified repairman. This manifests itself in the form of a "Helicopter Overhaul:" kind of like an aircraft engine overhaul on steroids. Instead of just the engine, it includes the drivetrain, blades, body, gauges, everything onboard. And, there instead of the recommended 12 years of the engines, its an hourly limitation, or 12 years, whichever comes first.

Owners and operators, or prospective owners and operators should always refer to the instructions and limitations provided by their machine's manufacturer, but there is a commonality among all helicopters: your next overhaul is not going to come cheap. Furthermore, it is not going to be a surprise.

Gemco's Helicopter Savings program is designed specifically for the large savings net required by helicopter owners to cover their next overhaul. Working with owners, we develop an agreed upon overhaul amount that takes into consideration things like inflation, labor valuation, depreciation, and market fluctuations. We then create a savings program that has stabilized hourly and monthly costs that allow owners to slowly start saving up for their next overhaul. And, the best part about the program is that it is an equity building program, just like our famous engine Overhaul Savings program. So, as you put money into the program as an owner/operator, you can create value in your machine that can transfer from owner-to-owner, or from machine-to-machine. So, when you finally decide that STOL performance is getting a bit to pricey for your wallet, you have options available to you when you buy your own personal fighter jet to let you go fast, instead.

Dylan Grimm