Lots of the folks who watched the video where I flew from home to the airport noticed that I parked right in front of the fuel island at the airport and wanted me to show how the helicopter is fueled. Well, that fuel island is now out-of-order and fuel comes from a truck. The other day, when I was feeling kind of punchy after flying through a hailstorm, I took a moment to video Dana, the FBO fuel guy at Wenatchee, as he refueled my helicopter, Mr Bleu. It was raining pretty hard and I whined about that but I think the results are worth sharing. So here, by popular demand, is how to fuel an R44 helicopter. Enjoy!
Some notes to answer questions I know I’ll get:
– Robinson R44 helicopters burn AvGas, also known as 100LL. It’s a 100 octane leaded fuel.
– On the day this video was posted, AvGas at my airport cost $5.52 per gallon.
– My helicopter burns between 14 and 17 gallons per hour, depending on my flight profile.
– I don’t do “hot fueling” — in other words, fueling the helicopter while it’s running. That can be dangerous.
When you do the math, you might say, “Wow! Only $80-$90 for an hour of flight time. Operating a helicopter is a lot less than I thought. Why are tours so expensive?” But that’s not taking into consideration are the other costs of owning and operating a helicopter: regular maintenance ($3K to $10K per year) and insurance ($8K to $20K per year) are the two biggest. Robinson Helicopters also need a complete overhaul every 12 years of 2200 hours of flight time; that’ll cost me about $250K or more than $100/hour. Taking all costs into consideration, my cost to operate is well over $400 per hour. It’s one of the reasons why I and so many other pilots are offended when strangers suggest splitting the cost of fuel in exchange for a ride. It’s like “sharing the cost” of a nice meal out by just paying half the tip.
If you’re really curious about R44 operating costs, you might want to download this document from the Robinson Helicopter Company: https://robinsonheli.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/r44_2_eoc.pdf Just keep in mind that Robinson is in business to sell helicopters, so these numbers are optimistic.
And another note to answer a specific question someone asked on another video the other day. When fuel comes from a truck (as opposed to self-serve), I have to request fuel service. I can do this two ways: (1) make a radio call to the FBO (fixed base operator) or fuel provider, which is usually on the common traffic advisory frequency at small airports like Wenatchee Pangborn (KEAT), or (2) land, shut down, get out, and go into the FBO building and ask in person. I’m a regular customer at Pangborn, so I have an account there and they bill me once a month based on what I bought. At other airports, I pay either at the truck or inside with a credit card.
If you have other questions, please don’t hesitate to post them in the comments. And don’t be offended if I’ve answered them here and tell you to read the video description. Thanks!