That's a Robinson R44.
Made by the Robinson Helicopter Company of Torrance, California, it has room for a Pilot and three passengers. Powered by a 540 cubic inch Lycoming engine, it can cruise at 120 miles per hour in heated/air conditioned comfort all day long.
I love the thing.
Yesterday, I got the chance to do something I love to do-
Most of the time, I fly students in the smaller Robinson-
the two seat R22.
Yesterday one of my students decided he wanted some time in the four-seater. Another helicopter flying friend had advised me of a nearby restaurant that has a large empty field adjacent to it, perfect for landing the helicopter. Wonderful!
Our R44 introductory flight included an off-airport landing, and dinner.
One of the neat things about helicopters is the amount of attention they attract. People going into the restaurant stopped to watch as we landed. People leaving the restaurant stopped to watch as we cooled and shutdown the engine. We secured the machine and walked to the restaurant, passing through the crowd like a couple of Rock Stars, answering the normal questions:
Is it harder to fly than an airplane?
How fast can it go?
Ya gotta be real careful about off-airport landings.....
Rotorwash can blow stuff and cause damage to surrounding property.
People can be a problem too- I once flew a U.S. Congressman to a meeting in a nearby town and landed, surrounded by a cordon of police cars I had called to secure the area. As I shut the helicopter down, 25 kids from an adjacent apartment complex came scurrying over to see what was happening. If the police hadn't been there to stop them there was no way I could have protected them, or the helicopter.
There were no such problems yesterday though.
I ordered short-ribs. They were unbelievable..... tasty, and you could shake the bone and the meat would fall off.
And best of all.....
knowing the financial plight of his instructor, my student picked up the tab!