The Art of Buying a Helicopter

The Art of Buying a Helicopter - Business Air Magazine, Vol. 31, No. 4

Helicopters are really cool!  Given you are reading this article, I think that we can all agree on that.  They are amazing machines that can perform everything from critical missions a hundred miles offshore to leisure trips to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

When someone is searching for a helicopter, the fun begins with perusing the various looks, paint schemes and interiors that are available with different types and models, while balancing this with budget constraints.  In the case of a used helicopter, once a helicopter is selected, the owner sends a maintenance organization out to gather intelligence on operating cost estimates and logical requirements needed to support the machine.   Once satisfied, the Buyer is ready to make an offer……or are they?

A helicopter is a complex piece of equipment with thousands of working parts, and therefore significant due diligence is required to make the most informed buying decision. Working with the right team in support of this effort will streamline the steps and minimize any risks associated with the purchase process.

The pre-purchase inspection of the helicopter is by far the most important step in the buying process – even price can be secondary if not done correctly.  It is imperative to understand the prevailing market conditions both globally and locally, as well as the current status or maintenance state of the helicopter. An understanding of the seller’s motivation to sell the machine is also critical.  Additional factors in the buying decision include: forecasted maintenance costing, mandatory or Buyer required modification costs and timing, airworthiness authority requirements, the escrow process, tax considerations,   potential import/export requirements and ferry or shipment of the helicopter.  Once the groundwork has been completed on these issues, we are now in a position to make a well informed offer and proceed with the pre-purchase inspection of the helicopter. 

The pre-purchase inspection can be completed by either the Buyers’ internal maintenance personnel or qualified 3rd party providers.  As with all aircraft, a thorough inspection of the aircraft is mandatory. However, in a helicopter transaction, unlike a business jet acquisition, the Seller may or may not be willing to cure issues/discrepancies that may exist or be highlighted during the inspection.  For example, if sold airworthy, a Seller is only likely to correct airworthiness discrepancies.  A thorough understanding of the market conditions (globally and locally) can help the Buyer strike a better deal, if in a position of strength.  Further negotiation may be required in order to achieve the desired result of the purchase of the helicopter.    

Organizations like International Aviation Marketing are geared towards managing the risks and rewards associated with the acquisition of helicopters and can provide the necessary expertise to streamline the process and ensure that it is efficient and effective.  We have extensive experience with both Buyers and Sellers and have encountered every imaginable (and unimaginable) scenario.  We always work towards a mutually beneficial transaction between the Buyer and the Seller.

Upon completion of the sale, the Buyer will get to enjoy the flexibility and efficiency that a helicopter offers.    Whether you are flying into a New York City heliport or touring the Las Vegas strip, a ride in a helicopter is a very cool experience.

This article was first published in Business Air magazine, Vol. 31, No. 4. The full story is available here: