Private helicopter charter service that rents out choppers to CEOs, celebrities, and other private companies have been around for a while. Switching their operational model, a lot of these firms are now offering aerial tours to tourists. Much like a rollercoaster ride, these helicopter tours are short, mostly 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the operator. These aerial sightseeing tours cover certain locations and they usually have a predetermined route. For example, NY helicopter tours usually gives tourists a good view of Liberty Island and Manhattan before returning back to the helipad.
Unlike chartered flights which primarily targets businesses and corporates, helicopter tours target a different segment of customers. They market their service to tourists who have a budget to splurge and are young enough to be excited about the ride. Affluent 30 to 45-year-old travelers who have the money to spend about $200 for a 15 to 30-minute tour are primary targets.
It should come as no surprise that launching a helicopter touring company requires a hefty investment. If you are buying the helicopters, you are looking at an investment of $250,000 to as much as $2,000,000 per aircraft. You can also purchase a pre-owned helicopter to keep the initial costs low. Another great option to test the waters is to lease the helicopters. Lease rates usually start from a few thousand dollars per day. If you are planning to fly the helicopters yourself then you need a commercial license, which requires you to pass a test and it costs around $20,000. Alternatively, you can also employ a pilot who already has a commercial license.
The fuel cost of operating a helicopter is similar to a gas guzzling truck. On an average, a helicopter delivers a mileage of 10 miles per gallon. Per 30-minute tour, you are looking at a gas consumption of 6 gallons. Barring the fuel cost, you also need to rent a hangar for your aircraft, which is about $3000 per month depending on your location. Considering that the average salary of a helicopter pilot is $73,000, you are looking at a recurring expense of about $6,100 per month. You can save this cost completely if you decide to pilot your own chopper. Other expenses include insurance cost, which is around $10,000 per aircraft depending on the helicopter model.
Return on Investment
A helicopter that seats 5 passengers can earn a revenue of $1000 for a 30-minute tour. The charge per seat also depends on the location. For example, Miami helicopter rides cost about $200 for a 30-minute grand tour. However, a similar 30-minute tour in New York goes for $350 to $400 per passenger. This means a helicopter that flies 30 hours a week can earn you a revenue of $12,000 to $24,000 per week. This means you are looking at a potential monthly revenue of $48,000 to $96,000 per aircraft.