Setting your sights on revolutionizing the private helicopter market is a pretty ambitious objective. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what Hill Helicopters is on its way to doing, having outlined an impressive project set to come to fruition in the near future.
Just a few months back, the UK-based helicopter company returned with a bang after a long period of silence. Far from hibernating, it turned out that the Hill Helicopters team had been innovating – and had subsequently come up with a potentially revolutionary new concept.
The luxury helicopter Hill believes will transform the modern aviation market is a sleek and sophisticated five-seat turbine model called the HX50. As for what makes it such a break from the norm, Hill has stated that when the HX50 is launched in the UK just two years from now, it will be available from a starting price of only £495,000.
An incredibly ambitious project for even the most accomplished helicopter company – something Jason Hill himself is fully aware of.
Achieving the Impossible
According to Jason Hill – founder of Hill Helicopters – the appeal of the HX50 will go far beyond its almost impossibly low purchase price. The company’s “holistic approach to safety” will make a real difference in how the HX50 is interpreted by potential buyers – resilience to low-g conditions, excellent stability, high power reserves, realistic payload and robust crashworthiness are among the features leading the charge.
“For a new, innovative product to inject the kind of step change in technology that the [helicopter] industry needs, if you were to try and do it the certified route, you’d need huge amounts of money; you’d need to be pre-production for a decade. And it’s just not a viable business model,”
Hill told Vertical in an exclusive interview.
As for how Hill Helicopters intends to launch such a sophisticated machine for this kind of low price, the company will launch the new model in 2023 as an experimental category, amateur-built model.
Something which, according to Jason Hill, will enable the company “to take more of the responsibility ourselves, meet all the same regulations, but get the product to market much, much faster than would have been possible with a traditional certification route. And then once the product is on the market, it becomes very difficult for a certification body to argue that ‘Oh, it’s a terrible idea, it’s very dangerous, it’s too risky,’ if we’ve got 1,000 or 2,000 of them out there already with an exemplary safety record.”
Even at this exceptionally low price, every HX50 will be sold with the same standard 5,000-hour, five-year nose-to-tail warranty for added reassurance.
Examining the Amateur Build Option
Far from off putting, Mr Hill suggested that the owner build requirement of the company’s new helicopter will actually be one of the primary points of appeal for a growing market of potential customers.
“The experience of being involved in manufacturing the helicopter that they then went on to fly around the world is an incredibly attractive proposition to a lot of these people — far, far more so than people would necessarily realize,”
“I want people to look at it and think: Well, that doesn’t look that much more complicated than a car.”
While it’s true to say that amateur-built helicopters like the HX50 cannot be used commercially, this isn’t the market Hill Helicopters is targeting. Instead, the company is setting its sights on wealthy individuals looking to purchase their own helicopters for personal use and play a major part in the assembly process.
Either way, Mr Hill remains adamant that the market desperately needs to be steered in a different direction – something his company intends to achieve with the launch of the HX50.
“The products we’re flying around today were out of date in the 1980s; they’re decades out of date,”
“We need a very large injection of innovation to bring general aviation back to life. We need modern technology, we need more connected aircraft, we need higher performance aircraft, we need better crashworthiness, we need to improve the desirability,”
“What we’re offering to these people isn’t just a revolutionary helicopter — it’s an ability to be part of the movement to relaunch GA,”
“These people are all very, very passionate about aviation. They love helicopters, they love the helicopter lifestyle, they just know it can be more.”