Purchase vs Rent Robinson R22?

I have been contemplating for several years adding a helicopter rating to my pilots’ license. I live just a few blocks from the Johnson County Executive Airport (KOJC) where there is a small part 61 helicopter training school. In 2003 I took a discovery flight with Jesse Sherwood, owner and flight instructor for Executive Helicopter Solutions. He is a flight instructor with tons of credentials including: Gold Seal CFI, FAA 2004 Flight Instructor of the Year, and NAFI Master CFI. He has tons of experience in Robinson Helicopters and let me tell you the ride was AWESOME! I have been a pilot for almost 6 years now and the sensation you get when you takeoff in a helicopter is truly amazing! I will have to put together a blog entry sometime about that discovery flight — truly awesome!

Read about my evaluation of purchasing vs renting a Robinson R22 after the jump.


One thing that has kept me from getting my license since that introduction flight in 2003 was the huge cost of helicopter rental. With rental rates $200/hr range, I had a hard time justifying the expense of adding that rating. I’ve read a lot of books on helicopter flying, but unless I can instruct in the helicopter (or come across a huge inheritance to at least get started), it was looking grim.

Last night unable to sleep, I had a “light bulb” moment — maybe I can buy a Robinson R22 and use it for training — then when finished I can keep the helicopter! As I began working on a spreadsheet, I needed some key figures including insurance costs etc. Two hours later, after working the numbers every way I could think possible, I decided that renting the R22 would be about the same cost. Renting that R22 would be much easier then purchasing one in my situation unless I found a good partner or two. Insurance is huge. Unless you have a lot of time in helicopters expect to pay about $10,000/year in hull/liability insurance. If anyone has any other (legal) ways they financed a R22 (especially for training), please let me know. Oh well. Back to bed I went…

Update 04-2007: The numbers change quite a bit if you calculate operating cost for training then selling after, say, year 5. I’ve had several people also email me and said that Pathfinder Insurance in the Bahamas will insure for between $6,000 and $8,500. Philip Greenspun’s review of his 2005 Robinson R22 says the same thing.

Update 09-2007: I’ve made a post here with some sample cost calculations.

Author: Michael Whaley

I am a Private, Instrument Rated, pilot living in the Kansas City Metro area with my family and Siberian Husky. I work as a Network Engineer supporting data and voice infrastructure components here in Kansas City. In my spare time I fly.

12 thoughts on “Purchase vs Rent Robinson R22?”

  1. I would love to see a follow-up post with your calculations. I’ve had a really hard time getting the flight time per year to offset the fixed costs.

  2. I have been working on my calculations and have made several revisions. I hope to post an article with my findings sometime soon.

  3. I bought a 1999 R22 Beta II and used it for my commercial training. (I already had my private ticket.) As you know, you have to build a lot of time and you really don’t need it to be dual. I wound up building over 1,000 hours in my R22 over 4 years before selling it and buying a factory-new R44 Raven II (which I still own and fly). My cost to operate the R22 (back then) was about $85 wet. It’s probably closer to $100/hour now.

    I should mention here that the flight school still wanted $75/hour dual IN MY AIRCRAFT. I think that’s obscene, but they wanted to maintain the same profit per hour that they got on a regular dual flight. You could probably get a much cheaper rate for instructor only if you went directly to a qualified CFI.

    Personally, I think this plan can work IF you get several folks together in a partnership. It’s tough to plunk down $100K or more (or finance it) for a used R22 and then deal with the $2K-$5K of annual maintenance and $4K-$8K of annual insurance costs. But with 3 or 4 folks splitting the tab, I think it’s doable. Be sure to come up with a contract for all partners. There’s a great book out that discusses aircraft partnership — my husband found it invaluable when he set up a 2-owner partnership in his plane.

    BTW, my R22 is for sale again, if you know anyone who wants to buy one. I sure wish I could buy it back, but the guy put new blades on it (there was an AD 3 weeks after I sold; talk about luck) and now wants $20K more than I sold it for in 2004. It’s a good little ship and I miss it. The R22 is a great one-person helicopter — even though it has two seats. 😉

  4. Paul, am contacting you by e-mail.

    A note to everyone else: I don’t own the R22 that’s for sale. I sold it to the guy who is now selling it. It’s listed on Trade-A-Plane.

  5. Hi Maria, I’ve been contemplating the same thing you’ve already accomplished! I’m interested in your transition time to the R44…how long was that process for you, and what was the most challenging aspect? Do you recommend starting to train in a ’22’ before moving to a ’44’, or if you had to do it over, and cost was no object, would you start with the R44? Having said that, do you think you are a better (more responsive) pilot having learned in the R22?

    ~Buzz (Portsmouth, NH)

  6. you are missing in your calculations the ammount of principal you have to pay after you sell the helicopter. that will increase your hourly cost. regards

  7. Hello Maria!
    I know these posts were last year, but I am really interested in talking to you, if you have a spare minute?
    I am looking into buying my first 22 and would really like some of your words of wisdom!!
    In regards to what age, and maintenance requirements to buy one at and one a reasonable price is, etc.
    Any help would be GREATLY appreciated and you would be MORE than welcome to come and fly the machine whenever you were to visit Africa! 🙂

  8. I had an R22 Beta for seven years. I elected to pay cash so I didn’t have insurance. I had confidence in my ultra conservative flying abilities and figured if I ever crashed I’d be dead anyway, so what good would the insurance be? (AOPA sells life insurance if you die flying and are worried about your heirs). At the end, with hangar fees and maintenance, it totaled about 30% less per hour than if I had rented. The numbers would never work if you had to buy insurance. It would also have been a lot less if I had a farm to keep my ship so I could have avoided the hangar fees for seven years.

  9. Can you please let me know what you decided to do? Did you buy? If so I need to rent w/ the pilot! I’m in Overland Park and sounds like your in Gardner so please get back with me!

  10. I’m in Maryland and am looking for fractional ownership of an R22. If anyone is interested please let me know.

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