I am considering upgrading to a Eurocopter for personal use and I have read everything I can on PPRuNe/Rotorheads. Some people say that the 120B does not have enough power...others say it does if you fly it with some discretion....but of course, it is not a strong as an AS 350 or Bell 407. Can I really carry 4 adults and reasonable fuel in a 120? Again, this is for private use, not for charter in hot weather, etc.
I recently test flew an AS 350 B2...obviously, it had loads of power, but man it was a handful when close to the ground. I hear you get over that in a few hours. Is this really true? What about the concept of one skid coming up first all the time? It seems like there is more maintenance on the 350.
What about the EC 130? Does anyone have an experience with one?
What about parts...some people have complained getting parts from Eurocopter US has been slow in the past. Is this still true?
I like the EC120. If you compare it to other airframes, compare it to a 206 or MD500E as far as load carrying ability. I do believe it is underpowered which is more a function of the transmission (or lack there of). Has a GREAT baggage compartment. Can you carry 90 minutes worth of fuel and four adults? Yes. But you may find yourself limited when the temps go up (although I see you said its not for hot weather), confined areas, or if your four passengers are not the FAA 170lbs. Visability is great. I do not know how you would equip it (GPS's, A/C which is recommended as it has lots of glass, etc) but run the numbers on empty weight, empty weight with your equipment, the fuel you need for how far you want to go and then the weights of your "typical" passengers.
Most of my time is in 350's of one type or another. Compared to the 120, the only thing the 350 lacks is the large baggage hold. However you can get a baggage extender for the tail boom to help with this. With the 350, for your operation, you could do everything you wanted with no worries and room to spare. Yes it is a little squirly in a hover and yes it always comes up left skid first. And yes after a few hours you won't notice it. I am not the highest time person around but I have around 1,000 hrs in the 350 and like it. And if given the choice between the 120 and 350 would take the 350 as I wouldn't be near as concerned about year round, go anywhere performance as compared to the 120. Every now and then parts can be slow from AEC but haven't heard of any issues of late. Sorry, can not speak for the 130 as I have no experience with them. Tour operators love them due to the glass and more seats.
Feel free to PM me with any other questions. Be happy to tell you what I know.
Steve, I really appreciate your input and that you took the time to write. I think my heart says go with the EC 120, but my head says get an AS 350.
I would get the air conditioning and I would probably load it up with GPS etc which makes the EC 120 even more questionable.
The problem is that I am flying an Enstrom 480 which I love. It flies great, has air conditioning, a great panel, etc...But I only have 1040 lbs of useful load. Once I put fuel in I don't have much left for passengers.
On paper the EC 120 has 300-400 more pounds of useful load. If it really does it in the real world, it might be just enough of an increase to satisfy me. I wish Eurocopter made an EC 125. <gr>
No problem with left skid up first in a 350 - it's right skid down first which usually throws off pilots without high time in it. A tip is, when the right rear plate touches the tarmac, don't dump the collective as you could go into ground resonance immediately, sufficient to make you jump up back into a hover very quickly ! Go easy on the collective, and she's as good as gold.
If you only want to do what you specified and the temps are not high then the 120 will serve you great. The 350 is build to be a work horse and although they do fine as VIP or corporate machines, it is almost a waste if you are not going to at least let the bleedvalve close every now and again.
If you want more than 4 pax or the room get a 130. The performance is excellent even hot and high, she has the 120 look with more aggression and always draws a crowd of observers due to her specific "look". The 130's maintenance is less than the 350 due to the fenestron and a specific maintenance program not having to cover for many variants and machines working at their max day in and day out worldwide in the worst possible conditions as per the 350.
Regarding the right skid landing first. Next time have a good look at the size of that tail rotor fitted to the 350 and you should see the roll it will induce due to lateral drift. Best way to cope with it is to fly the machine to the ground and do not stop at 3-5 foot to aim for your landing spot.
I am not familiar with the support in the USA, but my experience with theses machines are that they are extremely reliable and forgiving. If you have a good AMO looking after her and do a bit of preventative maintenance every now and again, you should not need Eurocopter's or Turbomeca's assistance except for the odd AOG. That is where you will have some lead time but again I will say the reliability of these machines are awesome and I got to know them where they have to work hard in very remote areas day in and day out!