A magazine for helicopter pilots and operators.

One of the things that has always bothered me about being a helicopter pilot — rather than an airplane pilot — is the dearth of good reading material about flying helicopters. The standard flying magazines here in the U.S. — Flying, Plane & Pilot, AOPA Pilot, Flight Training, etc. — rarely have an article written specifically about helicopters, for helicopter pilots, or by a helicopter pilot.

Sure, sometimes they throw us a bone, but it’s always with a catch. For example, in 2003 Flying magazine did a review of the Robinson R44 Raven II, but it had to share its pages with a review of a Porsche Cayenne. (You can read the article here.) It’s more common for them to put one of their airplane pilot/writers in a helicopter for a flight to write a “gee whiz, that’s cool” piece about helicopters, often fraught with technical errors. I remember one piece I read in a magazine where the author claimed that you must never let go of the collective, but you could let go of the cyclic. That author has obviously never flown a Robinson or Long Ranger — both of which I’ve flown extensively. I assume they’re representative of most helicopters: they have a pilot-friendly collective but a cyclic that’ll have the aircraft doing aerobatics if you let go of it.

What’s Out There

In the U.S., there are several helicopter-specific magazines. Rotor & Wing is the granddaddy, a monthly magazine with industry-specific content. Like most print publications, its page count has dwindled considerably in recent years. Content seems geared toward the heavy hitters of the industry, with articles about helicopter sales, new developments in helicopter technology and avionics, and reports from the North Seas and military operations. While I realize that it’s an important source of information for the industry’s heavy hitters, it can be pretty dry reading sometimes — especially for a small desert-based piston pilot like me.

Rotor, the magazine of the Helicopter Association International (HAI) is a quarterly publication. HAI is the helicopter industry’s big association. I was a member for about 2-1/2 years but soon realized that they really didn’t give a damn about operators with fewer than five helicopters. Everything they do is for the “big guys.” Their magazine isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on if you’re interested in anything other than HAI’s internal operations and the big operators they service. And their Web site is ugly, difficult to navigate, has many non-functioning links and “features,” and contains little content of value to non-members. (One of these days, I’ll have to write more about my experiences with HAI.)

Vertical MagazineVertical magazine is a slick publication from Canada. Of all the aviation magazines that arrive on my mailbox regularly, it’s the one I prefer. It’s got more content geared toward helicopter operators and pilots. It regularly covers issues such as flight training and does profiles of specific helicopter operators and operations. The photography is outstanding. And while I feel that they still gear content toward the big operators, there’s enough in each issue to satisfy the reading needs of little owner/operators like me.


HeliNewsApparently, however, the best helicopter-specific magazine comes from down under. Australia-based HeliNews is a magazine any helicopter owner or pilot can really sink his or her teeth into. It combines photography that’s almost as good as what you’d find in Vertical with articles written by helicopter pilots for helicopter pilots.

I recently received two sample issues of the magazine. The May 2008 issue has articles covering the following topics:

  • Profile of a corporate CEO who does mustering (cattle herding) with an R44
  • A day in the life of a New Zealand contract pilot in Scotland
  • Australian Navy – U.S. Coast Guard pilot exchange program.
  • Australian Federal Police helicopter operations
  • Helicopters in the movies (just part one in this issue; I don’t have part two!)
  • Military helicopter air show team
  • Practicing autorotations to grass
  • How ADS-B works
  • Switching from Robinson R22 to turbine helicopters and back

All this in addition to the usual collection of columns, editorials, and news about the helicopter industry.

My question: Why can’t a North American publication give us more content like this? Rotor & Wing? Vertical? Are you listening?

Me? Writing for HeliNews?

You might be wondering why I have two copies of this magazine. After all, I don’t think it’s widely available — or perhaps available at all — in the United States.

Well, I’ve been asked to submit an article for the magazine and, if I don’t drop the ball by procrastinating and I submit something worthy of publication, I’ll be a HeliNews author. At least once.

There’s nothing more pleasing to me than to have some of my work published in a high quality magazine.

So if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to work.

3 thoughts on “HeliNews

  1. I share your sentiments about the the bias of major helicopter publications away from the small piston operator.

    I am an R22/R44 pilot who splits my season flying in New York City and the Aleutian Islands.

    Our season on Umnak Island on the Aleutian chain is usually from July to November herding wild cattle and reindeer. I have a good collection of photos of our operation and would be happy to send you some.

    Sure would love to hear more from you.

    • Sounds like fun. Need another pilot up there? I can bring my own aircraft — if you cover my ferry costs. :-)

      And I grew up in the NYC area; would love to fly helicopters there one day.

      Hoping to find time to write more. Thinks have been painfully hectic lately and I’m looking forward to some down time at home.

  2. i discovered your site just a few days ago while googling around for cattle herders and tuna spotters.

    I immediately recognized the site/blog to be head and shoulders above the deluge of forgettable aviation sites. Eclectic indeed !!! Where do you find the time for this volume of work – do you sleep at all?

    We run a ranch on at the foot of Okmok caldera. The cattle (about 3000) graze freely and are totally certified organic. Problem is that being wild, and having no contact with humans most of the year, they are stubborn and just itching to run you down. In fact an R22 was gored and still shows wounds on its chin.

    We get a lot of weather and squirrelly wind which tests our 22s/44, and pilots too of course. But the landscape is stunning and primal. Unusual even by Alaskan standards. And the flying is beyond compare. Let me see if the Boss would be receptive to someone bringing their own aircraft as you offer. Even my fellow S76 pilots here in NY want to go to Umnak but they have not flown Robbies in decades let alone attempt to herd wild cattle with them. I can send a CD of photos. I suppose i can find your address somewhere on your site. Meanwhile i will fill in your email contact form and send a “photo of the month” if you wish to receive a sample.

What do you think?