Just say you just come into an inheritance or won the lottery, first thing you do, buy a house or a Ferrari, or even a long holiday? What would you say if I said you could have it all in one package? Well, ok I may be laying it on a bit thick and maybe you couldn’t live in it but heck you could try! By now you might be thinking what is this dick going on about, well here’s a hint - it flies, but doesn’t have wings and it doesn’t need a landing strip to land on and its fuckin’ quick! If you haven’t guessed by now it was a helicopter!
The Lawless Angels and I were guest for a better word, well we were kind of invited ourselves to Bankstown Airport and HTT (Helicopter transport and Training Pty Ltd) who has not only become the Australian/Asian distributor of the new must have toy for the rich and famous the Guimbal Cabri G2.
HTT graduate and Guimbal sales Philippe was more than pleased to show the Angels and myself around the hanger (The Angels in particular!) and give us a look around the multimillion of dollars of wicked machinery . Philippe a French national studied for his license back in 2007 with HTT and after he had graduated HTT owner and trainer Mark Donohoe offered him a job and Philippe has been with the company ever since doing all the shuttle, joy and charter flights with a little aerial photography thrown in as well as sales of the Cabri.
The Cabri is a brand new machine and what is great about them is that they bring a whole load of new tech knowledge to this type of aircraft, which you usually find on the bigger machine’s, the cabin and blades are all made of composite and are the first to pass the strenuous European Certification. The difference between certified and not certified is that this machine can be used commercially and for a machine such of this it is a big-deal and to qualify and past a significant achievement for example the machines needs to able to be filled to 80% of its capacity and then dropped 50 feet to the ground and if one drop of fuel is lost the machine will not pass! Philippe makes the remark “it’s quite incredible the regulations for the certification and it’s like that for everything, the blades and their long jeopardy and all the other components and so you are guaranteed a Ultra Safe Aircraft once it has been certified” another of the stringent and somewhat whacky test that deserved mention was the seat test, the seat needs to be rated at 19G impact, that’s the equivalent of a drop of 2000ft per minute and being about to walk away from it.
HTT owner Mark also loves his cars and has had this thing for the latest Ferrari yellow, a triple layered and very complicated paint Mark went through the unusual steps of making his first Cabri G2 a one off went to the Ferrari factory in Italy picked himself up enough of the paint and then took it back to the Guimbal factory in France to get the Helicopter painted in that particular colour.
The Cabri is a 145HP 2 seater which may not seem much but has ample power to carry two people and luggage for up to 4.5hr flight which is quite an achievement for this size machine and the fact the dash is fully electronic makes it pilot friendly compared to other machines, on other machines the pilot has to do all the calculations of fuel consumption and everything and this dash does it all.
Philippe recommends the machine to the private pilots mainly because of its (how he put it) ‘’Super’’ Manoeuvre ability which is especially important in Australia with much of this style machines in demand as working machines particularly for mustering livestock in which there is a big demand. Another big selling point for the Cabri G2 is the reliability and servicing, unlike the majority of other machines that have to have their motors rebuilt after 2000hrs and 2200hrs for the Airframe, the Cabri G2 (excluding the gearbox which needs to be rebuilt at 3000hrs) is unconditional, that is much like your car if it isn’t broke you don’t need to fix it! “The Cabri G2 is a little more expensive to buy but you get more aircraft for your money” is a catch phrase of the company and safety one of their major as with all manufacturers is Auto Rotation (Auto rotation happens is a term used when a helicopter loses its engine), a lot of aircraft you have very little time to react and engage the proper landing procedures where with the Cabri G2 you get the performance of far larger machines because of it’s the 3 blades being heavier than similar size machines meaning the Cabri is much more forgiving and a lot of thought given to its development. HTT is still predominately a helicopter training company and has been training pilots for the past 10 years, Mark had a background in training so he took the plunge and started the school and has been busy since day one even though they don’t advertise and only having a website HTT get the majority of their work via word of mouth and that is the way Mark likes it and they try to stay under the radar (Until now!). HTT as mentioned by Philippe does a lot of film and video work and is booked yearly for Sydney’s City to Surf “we just never know what the task is when they ring we have even rescued people from roofs of houses.Mark himself learnt to fly in Australia 20 years ago when he arrived from London and then got a job mustering cattle in Nth Queensland and then had a 2 year stint working in Hong Kong as their first helicopter examiner. He had a couple of his students relocate to Monaco and he use to holiday there every year and go flying and it was on one of those particular trips that he got to meet Bruno Guimbal and some of his employees and went on to develop a relationship with the company and secure the Australian Dealership license. Being a dealer has its perks Guimbal attend an Aircraft show every year in Germany and the boys get to fly the agile little Cabri G2 through the Alps and when we caught up with the boys Mark and Philippe had just returned stating the obvious had this to say about their trip with a little bit of sarcasm Mark says “Yes it was lovely and great fun, it’s amazing flying the Alps of Germany and Switzerland!’’ Mark’s take on the Cabri G2 didn’t much differ from Philippe’s take on the pocket dynamo saying ‘’ The Cabri G2 is a little different from the other 2 seat piston helicopters on the market and there hasn’t been a new helicopter design in this category for the past 35years. The Cabri G2 is very up to date, all composite and very modern, digital and has a lot of safety aspects the old helicopters don’t have’’A couple of the more notable points are Lightning strike certified blades, a puncture repairable bladder fuel tank that can have a bullet shot through it and it will still reseal and the Fenestron tail in which Bruno Guimbal designed for Eurocopter when he was working for the company as a designer. The Fenestron tail is a very small shrouded high speed fan with 2 blades which is unique to Eurocopter which controls the torque, as the blades of the helicopter spin in one direction the helicopter wants to spin in the opposite direction and the tails function is to spin in the opposite direction to stop the body from moving.
the Cabri G2 is unconditional and there is no 12 yearly rebuilds and parts may last up to 6-7-8 to even 12,000HRS which means because of the lower servicing and part replacement made for good resale value due to the long life of the components and lower maintenance costs or eaten into flying time, which in the long term shortens the price gap between the $400,000 dollar price tag of the Cabri G2 and the Robinson R22 at $280,000.
The Guimbal Cabri G2 comes with leather trim, heater, Dual Controls and trim system standard with the only options available are pop out floats in case of emergency landings on water, night panel and air-conditioning but bear in mind the you only need air-con if you are going to operate in very hot areas, reason being you can usually start with the doors open and let some air in and once you get moving there’s usually sufficient cool air to keep passenger and pilot cool and air is not a major factor Mark recommends air-conditioning for people in Hong Kong and Asia because of the humidity but not so much here in Australia, saying ‘’its handy but not essential’’.
Guimbal can only build one Cabri G2 a month and HTT have just sold one in Hong Kong and given six options for potential customers in China. Mark says the interest from China was unexpected and came from left field and put the interest down to the contacts he had made over his time in Hong Kong being still very active in the industry and sees China as being as large a market as Australia and now fields 3-4 inquiries a day and a large amount of people coming in for test flights, only some of the questions are better left unanswered if only because the Cabri G2 is that new even Mark doesn’t know the answers and remarks “It’s kind of fun, I like that side of it! It’s not bodgie it’s just they are so new we know a lot of what they are about but we are still learning!’’ Mark and HTT are trying to keep the two they have so they can clock up some hours on them so they can get a firm understanding of the ins and outs of the Cabri G2 and learn more about them so they can confidently answer all those hard questions, put an accurate figure on running costs and any reliability issues. The Guimbai Cabri G2 comes with a 500hr/1 year limited warranty, but unfortunately the warranty only covers parts and does not cover labour, with every Cabri G2 sold by HTT. HTT would supply labour if needed. Mark remarks “We will look after the buyer; it’s just part of the service! Anyone who buys a Cabri G2 we will teach them to fly it and include conversion training and we won’t let you leave them leave until they know what they are doing.’’
HTT clientele come from all walks of life and includes everything from film stars and celebrities to electricians and plumbers and the BTT boy’s never quite know who they are going to be teaching to fly next.
One of the more popular services for the boys is the city fly over which leaves Bankstown airport makes its way north taking in Homebush stadium and Sydney’s Olympic site makes its way to Parramatta river east following the river to Sydney harbour then flying over the harbour bridge and taking in the Sydney Opera House and other Harbour landmarks turning around once they are almost at the Sydney Heads and then makes the same flight back to Bankstown. Mark fully understands why the flight is so popular and making the tongue in cheek comment ‘’its value for money! Take the bridge climb for example, it’s a drama, you have to turn up watch a video, then put a suit on and be drug and alcohol tested, you can’t take photos, you have to buy theirs. Our trip you can turn up, I wouldn’t say you can turn up drunk but you can certainly have had a beer as you could a Qantas flight and still go safely for a flight and take as many photos as you like and you get to fly over Sydney and even get to wave to the people on the bridge climb’’ then with an inquisitive look Mark asks ‘’$270AUD per person to walk over the bridge? Put 3 people in a R44(Helicopter) for a half hour costs $180AUD per person and get a round trip of 30miles taking in Homebush, Bridge, Opera House and Woolloomooloo and then back which has to be much better than a walk across the bridge. It’s kind of interesting the bridge climb, they make you do all the work and then take your money; I find that bazaar how they can charge you for a walk? I can’t say get $280 off you and send you for a walk!’’