A man of means fills heart and home with the things he loves – his top drawer with fine timepieces, his garage with petrol-thirsty steeds and, when success permits, his hanger with equally beautiful flying machines. With fast-moving improvements in technology making unprecedented advancements in both performance and design possible, the choices are both more compelling and more complex. So, we’re here to help you out with your next big spend in the beautiful, wide and confusing world of whirlybirds. Be prepared to allocate a few million and be the envy of everyone in the sky:
1. Bell 407GXP
Tried and true, the updated Bell 407GXP is a nimble and sporty roadster-style ride wrapped in the body of a modern classic. Launched in 2015, the 407GXP is the latest incarnation of Bell’s aviation icon with all the latest bells and whistles the industry has to offer – the Porsche 911 of the skies, you might say. Beefed up by its Rolls-Royce M250 engine, you’re looking at more power, better fuel efficiency, and enhanced performance: “hot and high”, in industry lingo. Call it: Destination: Anywhere. And the 407GXP clocks in at a manageable $3.5 million.
Optional floor-to-ceiling passenger windows offer an undeterred view of the good life. Comfortably housing five passengers, the cabin feels open yet private given the seating configuration which keeps the crew’s cockpit and instrumentation virtually out of view. And speaking of cockpit, rest easy on your airborne commute – the 407GXP provides the crew with enhanced-situational-awareness thanks to its Garmin 1000H flight deck. In layman’s terms, “this baby can basically fly itself”. The only thing not included is a cooler with a chilled bottle of your favorite champagne to properly toast your ascent into the clouds.
2. Airbus H130 B4
Characterized by its forward-thinking aesthetic, perfectly rounded corners and sweeping lines, Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) has pushed the boundaries of rotor wing modernity. Case in point is the Airbus H130, more commonly referred to in the industry as the B4. Designed for the tourism market, this Light-Single Category bird features a proportionally wide body and vast open cockpit that offers an unparalleled field of view. For the man willing to share privilege, the B4 comfortably seats a party of five (not including crew) and can cart you off to wine country in an enviably quiet environment. Thanks to its three-blade design and quiet Fenestron shrouded tail, you can look forward to lively conversation and an even more noteworthy panorama.
At the controls you’re presented with a freshly upgraded Garmin G500H avionics suite featuring an all-glass-cockpit and wide open forward visibility. And for the patron who fancies himself one of the crew, the H130 features a helicopter design rarity: a hot-seat alongside the controls. Positioned to direct the orchestra, the H130 has become a hit in the VIP market and is expected to continue to grow its elite fan base. At roughly $4 million depending on factory options, it puts you ahead of the pack in more ways than one.
3. Marenco SKYe SH09
For the early adopter, the man in the know and the fellow who makes his own rules, we present the Marenco Swisshelicopter SKYe SH09. Designed by an engineer and pilot who was tired of seeing the same old mistakes being made by big-name manufacturers, the company set out to break the mold and design a “clean sheet” helo that was sleek and revolutionary, much like the iPhone. With its corporate headquarters and engineering facilities nestled in an apple orchard (mere coincidence?) the SH09 has now gone from the drawing board to working prototypes, and is slated for certification in 2018.
Taking cockpit and passenger visibility to new levels, the SH09 dons a slippery, streamlined exterior, set off by the use of plexiglass floor panels in the pilot’s cabin. Further blurring the line between Formula 1 car and your average helicopter is a five-rotor all-composite system keeping vibration and noise to a minimum. It accommodates seven passengers and a whole lotta luggage – a welcome and uncommon industry feature, while barn-style doors keep baggage handling out of sight. Slated for production in late 2018, the SKYe SH09 is expected to run a cool $3.5 million; overall a modest price to join the ranks of the tasteful few who are willing to bet on a new brand.
4. Sikorsky S92
The Sikorsky S92 has the hard-earned reputation of being a workhorse with myriad talents. Most commonly seen flying support to offshore oil rigs, this extremely sophisticated and powerful machine has recently achieved the coveted title of official replacement of Marine One. Outside of North American borders, the S92 has the unrivaled distinction of being the choice helicopter for 11 other heads of state, and in a VVIP configuration, the S92 is a tough horse to beat.
Designed to seat nine passengers in its ample and open cabin, this bird includes a galley, wet bar, multiple closets and lavatory for one of the most quiet and comfortable rides currently on the market. Widening your ultra-VIP options are veteran third-party customization services that can even outfit the S92 with a shower. Thanks to its active vibration suppressors and state-of-the-art noise abatement tech, your flight is always smooth and undisturbed. Moreover, the S92’s twin engine power and more than 5,000 hp available at the controls ensure power for any scenario. Rest assured, if recent times haven’t stoked your presidential aspirations, you can at least say you have the helicopter for the job – but make sure you also have the bank balance, because a VVIP configured bird will run you a cool $30 million.
5. Sikorsky UH60 Black Hawk
Just as retired Russian MiG fighter jets were once all the rage with acquisitive billionaires, ex-military Black Hawks of the kind made famous in countless overseas operations are the must-have accessory for high testosterone types. What makes the UH60 Black Hawk, manufactured by Sikorsky, even more exclusive is that it’s type-restricted – meaning you can’t just ride in it, nor can anyone else who isn’t licensed. You must learn to fly the thing yourself if you really want to enjoy it, and the attendant bragging rights,
Only recently made available on the civilian market, picking up a “pre-owned” and possibly combat-flown version of one of these matte black helos is a relative bargain at $400,000-$800,000 depending on overall condition. It’s overpowered, difficult to control and built for battle, not pleasure cruises. But on the upside, you’ll have earned the respect of at least one ex-Californian governor accustomed to riding around in military machinery; after all, this is nothing if not the airborne equivalent of a Hummer – and we mean the real one used by the armed forces, not the soccer mom version. Also, useful if you should decide to stage a coup.
6. Bell 525 Relentless
Pushing the absolute limits of the sky and our ambitious quest to reach the top is the soon-to-be Titan of helicopters. The Bell 525 Relentless falls into the Super Medium Category, aptly named for its near-redundant excess of power. Additionally, this twin engine beauty has proven to be the quietest hell flown to date. With VIP configurations with seating for up to eight are capable of making even the most jaded member of the super-elite salivate, the 525 Relentless is a behemoth with the most spacious cabin currently available in an already roomy category. Mecaer Aviation Group, known for its ultra-luxurious customizations, exclusively works the details on orders destined for the VIP sector. One industry-first option is the electrically dimmable windows.
The Relentless’ top speed is clocked at an astounding 178 mph, and topping it off is what is expected to be the most complex avionics suite to date, made possible by the Garmin 5000H flight deck. Additionally, the avionics system includes the impressive Helicopter Synthetic Vision Technology (HSVT) module giving pilots the ability to see 3D renderings of detected terrain, obstacles and traffic in any weather conditions. The aviation community and helicopter buyers worldwide are eagerly awaiting the Relentless’ certification, slated for 2018. The price is expected to be $15 million, making it one of the most expensive helos ever produced.