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Preferred Helicopter for Aerial Photography

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Preferred Helicopter for Aerial Photography

Old 7th Jul 2013, 05:56
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Preferred Helicopter for Aerial Photography

I have just read an article by an accomplished professional photographer, who said that the one helicopter he recommends for aerial work is MD Helicopters MD 500.

Do you have a preferred aircraft and if you do, why do you like it?

If not one, which ones would you thinks are advisable and what are the reasons for the recommendation?
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Old 7th Jul 2013, 11:25
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Join Date: Jun 2013
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I think the best way is to ask photographer, not pilot.....

diffrent jobs, different duties....
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Old 7th Jul 2013, 12:42
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Well, many pilots are photographers. Many fly with photographers all the time and have the experience and know what their photographers want.

Someone who flies knows the types of aircraft and what is a light, agile and safe one for the job.

They also know about safety and can recommend accordingly.
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Old 7th Jul 2013, 15:05
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Proof, in the market

The largest single group - Media.
Votes with their $ for AS350/355 (Previously, and cheaper, B206)
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Old 8th Jul 2013, 00:51
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Like most aerial work the environment over which you work is a significant factor in choice of helicopter.
Twins over cites, big engined singles when hot and high ect.
Rear fenstroms if noise is a significant issue (ie shooting animals or sensitive, populated areas)

Also a factor is the $$ cost of transit between a local aircraft and a more ideal craft that is hours away.

Availability of floats should be considered if you do marine or coastal work.

4 POB in a R44 for low level aerial photography on a hot day has less safety of a margin than 2 POB.

Working from the rear seat is preferable to eliminate the rare chance of camera equipment fouling controls.

A sliding door is preferable to removing the door.

There are after-market kits that install a slide down window in most helicopters so a sliding door can remain closed or enabling the use of a hinged door. Operators often neglect to mention this on their websites.

A compact helicopter with a high degree of manoeuvrability is always an advantage, but not essential for many assignments.
Large or slippery shaped helicopters can be more difficult to slow down, but tend to have ample power once they are in a hover.

Skill and experience of pilots is a factor, up to a point. Very low hour pilots, lets say under 1000 hours, should be avoided for complex jobs with high degree of pressure or low level work in a helicopter flown with little power margin.

Since helicopters are charged by time in the air, comparing maximum cruise is prudent especially since cruise speed with doors off is usually lower than door closed.

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Old 8th Jul 2013, 01:00
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lots of power, good visibility from inside, easy to remove doors if needed.

Last edited by Soave_Pilot; 8th Jul 2013 at 01:01.
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Old 8th Jul 2013, 01:59
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For my work, it's AS350/AS355.

Flat floor is key. Ability to flip up rear seats is great, giving more room in the back when needed. Powerful, stable, and fairly easy to find in most major cities for charter. Lots of flexibility with door-off configurations, and many aircraft are equipped with sliding doors...great in winter time or for long transits to the shot location.

On jobs I work, it's always tech + photographer in the back, front unoccupied. I've worked out of most of the common aircraft one finds, and I'll take an A-Star or TwinStar any day.
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Old 8th Jul 2013, 03:27
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The BEST helicopter can be usless in the hands of a pilot who doesn't understand photograpy, and the WORST helicopter can yield a lot better results with a pilot who understands what he is doing.
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Old 8th Jul 2013, 06:15
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Well said, blender - but given the nature of cameramen, my choice would be the 206/L for survivability in and around the avoid curve, with a nod to the 355 when a twin is required.


Last edited by paco; 8th Jul 2013 at 06:16.
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Old 8th Jul 2013, 07:23
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Join Date: Aug 1999
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The OP was referring only to aerial photography, which lends a lot more leeway than cinematography so the opinions on flat floors aren't so relevant in my opinion.

As already mooted the choice of machine is less important than the capabilities of the driver as a camera pilot: you can either 'see' the shot and position accordingly or you can't. I've done photography from a huge range of machines from Sea King to R44 and they all had their merits according to the job being done.

These days I'm happy enough to use an R44 for the easier stuff, but will prefer a Squirrel for night ops or where a few people (assistant, client advisor) need to be carried. Sliding doors in a Squirrel lends a degree of flexibility allowing a choice of left or right side according to the wind, my old BK117 was suitable for the same reason plus able to get approvals for OEI ops low over built up areas for spec shots.

Lots of choices, impossible to recommend any one as it all depends upon the job and the parameters required to achieve the shot.
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Old 8th Jul 2013, 21:45
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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one photographer I flew with few years back only wanted to fly in Hughes 300 because they were so good to crash in. found out later he had crashed twice in a helicopter.
But Blender said it best. is all up to the pilot and his performance and if he has basic knowledge and insight to photography.
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