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One of the top questions I hear from prospective helicopter students is this… “Should I train in a Robinson or a Schweizer helicopter?” It is an excellent question, but it does not have a clear answer. The information I provide below may help you decide.
To qualify my own experiences, I have trained and worked professionally in both Robinson and Schweizer helicopters, so I can reference first hand experience.
To compare apples to apples, we must compare the Schweizer 300CB/CBi models to the Robinson R22. These are both 2 seat helicopters that are the most widely used primary training helicopters in the country. I will discuss the Robinson R44 in a subsequent article.
To start off, both machines are superb to fly, a lot of fun, and very safe.
Lets talk about the R22. It is a very light helicopter that was originally designed by Frank Robinson to be a personal
transport helicopter for aviators who were already licensed pilots. The design originates from the 1970′s. It evolved into the most widely used primary training helicopter in the civilian market. It is not a helicopter for folks that are on the heavier side. It has a small useful load; meaning fuel, people, and cargo capacity. If you are over 240 pounds, it is probably not the helicopter for you. The R22 is fast compared to the Schweizer. The R22 tops out at 102 knots of airspeed, and on a good day with one person on board, you could actually reach that speed. It has a non-conventional T-Bar cyclic system, which makes it very easy to board the helicopter, and with a little time, easy to work with.
Here are the two important issues with the Robinson product… The R22 (like the R44) has very touchy controls and has additional time requirements associated with it for training. The extra time requirements refer to the Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) contained in the Federal Aviation Regulations. In order to solo, you must have 20 hours in the aircraft. Some people are ready to solo before 20 hours, but the rules associated with the Robinson don’t allow that. Also, in order to do flight instruction in the R22, you must have 200 hours in helicopters, and 50 hours specifically in the R22. This can be cost prohibitive, especially in today’s economy. A lot of people are ready to be flight instructors around 170 – 200 hours of flight time. If you can finish your instructor rating well before the 200 hours requirement, then what do you do? Pay for more flight time just to teach in that helicopter? That’s tough to swallow for a newly minted flight instructor who is ready to work and be paid to fly, rather than pay for more time. As for the flight controls, they are not very forgiving and require a lot of finesse, which sometimes requires students to take a little extra time getting accustomed to the flight characteristics.
Now lets talk about the Schweizer 300CB and 300CBi. (The ‘i’ stands for fuel injection.) It is a helicopter design that has been in existence for nearly 50 years. It is a derivative of the Hughes (yes, Howard Hughes) 269 model helicopter that received FAA certification in 1959. It is a much more robust helicopter than the R22, and it also has a gross
weight that can handle the heavier student. I have trained students and flown with commercial customers who were nearly 300 pounds. It has more traditional and common type of flight controls, making it very similar in control and operation as it’s larger turbine powered cousins. The Schweizer was built for training. Every piece of the design was done with the student pilot in mind. The helicopter is tough and resilient. The other nice thing is that there are no additional time requirements to train in the helicopter. If you are ready to solo, your instructor will send you off without having to reach 20 hours. And you don’t need 200 hours to teach in it. Once you have your flight instructor license, you are ready to teach others how to reach the same dream you have! Another nice benefit is that it is more roomy inside than the R22. Some models even have a third seat available to accomodate a small child passenger.
The drawback to the Schweizer helicopter is that it is slow. The best speed you might see out of it is 80 – 85 knots airspeed. It’s maximum speed is 94 knots, but it would be extremely rare to see that speed. The reason is because the machine has a large and flat front windshield. It was never meant to be fast because it was built for training, and in the training environment speed is not required. There is one other thing that is usually initially seen as a drawback, and that is the lack of a throttle governor on the Schweizer. But just like anything else, with enough practice, you get used to it.
We have Schweizer 300CB and 300CBi helicopters here at Hummingbird for your primary training. We do not utilize Robinson R22′s here. We do also have a Robinson R44 for training. Look for a discussion on the R44 very soon!
When it comes to helicopters you want to train on, look at the informtion and decide for yourself. Both helicopters are great machines to fly and are relatively low in cost to rent and purchase. It is important to remember that both aircraft do the same thing and accomplish the same goals. They just do it in different ways. It boils down to engineering. Each aircraft design has to give and take in order to accomodate different jobs and pilot needs. Both aircraft have an up side and both aircraft have a down side. As the person who is considering training, you have to decide what is important to you. We are here to guide you in that process. We can be reached at 952-944-2628. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
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