For at least the last 35 years it's been practically Hobson's Choice about what sort of heli to learn in - the ubiquitous Robinson R22. But as I recently started to look into learning I discovered there was now another choice.
The R22's big brother is the R44 - a four seater (to the R22's two seat configuration). From the research I've done (lots of Googling, plus reading PPRuNe, plus asking instructors) I'm led to believe learning in an R44 can be quicker than an R22, because of its weight and stability. Some suggest that it's so much easier in an R44 that the extra cost of learning over an R22 is easily offset by the shorter time taken to pass the PPL.
And on that note, I've read various opinions and talked to three different schools - and all seem to agree that circa 65 hours is about normal for somebody learning in a R22.
However, my research has led me to a new kid on the block, the Guimbal Cabri G2.
The Cabri has been in production since 2005, so there aren't many around. Long story short, they've been designed and built by an ex-Eurocopter employee, and they're very much intended to be a new training helicopter. From conversations I've had with three schools, and from a friend's querying of his own instructor, there's a strong confidence the Cabri G2 will turn out to be the defacto trainer heli sometime in the not too distant future.
One school told me they'd recently had a young student pass their PPL(h) in a Cabri G2 in the minimum required 45 hours. So despite them being slightly more costly per hour than an R22 (but slightly cheaper than an R44) there was a considerable overall cost saving.
The more I read about the Cabri, the more it sounded like the best choice to learn in. Lots of modern features, lots of mind given to safety, a fantastic range and even some space for luggage! I'll touch on some of these details in another post.
With all the positives one naturally has to apply a bit of balance, and look for negatives. There is a fairly large one - depending on your geographical location. Since I am based in the UK, and going to learn here, I wanted to find schools running a G2. And this is the problem - there aren't very many at all. As of August 2015 there are just 13 G2s in the UK.
This means that hiring them, post learning, might be tricky. But, for me, I can move past that - the two schools I am considering using (because they're both fairly local for me) have G2s. Excellent!
Next week I'm due to have two trial lessons, one in the Robinson R22 and the other in a Cabri. Providing the weather holds out, I'll post my thoughts after each one.