Twenty years ago, if someone told me I'd own a helicopter before my 40th birthday, I would have told them they were nuts. Yet on October 3, 2000, I took delivery of my first helicopter, a 1999 Robinson R22 Beta II. Four years later, on January 8, 2005, I'd traded it in for a brand-spanking-new, designed to my specifications, 2005 Robinson R44 Raven II. I was making a lot of money as a writer back then. A handful of bestselling computer how-to books -- yes, they do exist -- and a few good real estate investments left me with an excess of cash. I live rather modestly in a home I can afford and although I own more than my fair share of motor vehicles, none of them are new, flashy, or expensive. In other words, I don't live beyond my means. Although my income fluctuates wildly -- especially these days -- I could foresee the ability to own and operate an R44 into the future, especially with added income from a small Part 135 on-demand charter operation.
Fueling my opinion on this matter was a document published by Robinson Helicopter Company on its Web site. Titled "R44 Raven II Estimated Operating Costs," it painted a rosy picture of an "affordable" helicopter (if there is such a thing). The conclusion at the end of the "Operating Cost-Per-Road Mile" section stated that the calculated 98¢ per road mile "...compares favorably with some expensive automobiles, and will usually be lower when the value of time saved is considered."
The Underestimated CostsI knew from the start that the document was overly optimistic for my situation. Some of the numbers just didn't seem right.