Helicopter: serious sea toy

Do you hate expressways and trips to the airport? Do you like to hover?

Then you might really like owning a helicopter.

Let’s talk about the LongRanger, Bell Helicopter 206L4, which was shown at the 2013 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show on the deck of the 190-foot yacht Mi Sueño (Spanish for “My Dream”).

“This one costs about $3 million,” said Anthony Moreland, managing director of Bell’s North America commercial business. Other models range from $1 million to $12 million.

The cabin of the LongRanger can hold the pilot and six passengers, with five seats in the back and two in front.

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Features include a high-inertia, two-blade rotor system and a patented suspension system that delivers a smooth ride, club-seating configuration that allows for face-to-face conversation, and 61-inch doors that open wide for easy access to its 80-cubic-foot cabin.

It’s not necessary to go into decorative details, because the sky’s the limit. The helicopter “can be painted any color the customer wants,” Moreland said. “Sometimes they paint them to match their boats, planes and homes; and some people have a fleet, matching leathers and woods.”

And they are fast, safe and comfortable, he added. “They can go up to 10,000 feet, cruise at 125 to 130 knots (130 to 135 miles per hour), typically fly 300 to 400 miles, and, in an emergency, there’s still a lot of control. If there’s engine failure, they can still be landed very safely. An advantage over a plane — they don’t need forward motion, meaning there are more places for them to land.

“And they can hover.”

Bell International, an 80-year-old company, has its main location in Fort Worth, Texas, with independently owned service facilities all over the country. In the United States, Bell serves five types of clientele: offshore (e.g., flying people out to oil rigs), corporate, law enforcement, emergency medical services, and utility operators.

Individual customers, usually affluent people who are entrepreneurs, senior executives or retired senior executives, use them for flying themselves or their guests from their home to the airport, their businesses or to yachts, Moreland said, noting that he had fewer than 12 Palm Beach customers.

“This type of client I place in my corporate segment. They are a good business for us,” Moreland said.

Some of the owners have their pilot’s license; some don’t.

“Often, even if they are enthusiastic for aviation, they’ll have private pilots, or they have an arrangement with service providers who provide the pilot and the maintenance personnel, and we have a facility in north Fort Lauderdale,” he said.

Some yacht owners like to come back and forth, from boat to land, in a helicopter rather than a tender, Moreland added.

“They keep the helicopter in a hangar on land; a few have their own hangars. The owners come down in their airplane, get on the helicopter, get on the boat, and the helicopter goes back to the hangar. It can stay on the boat, which is under way, but the deck has to be designed so that you can secure the helicopter — that’s not ideal.”

Looks like helicopters prefer not to rock and roll.

Written for Palm Beach Daily News

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