Climbing out from our starting point at the newly opened Kearny Heliport in New Jersey, Burchill headed for the Statue of Liberty before handing over the controls to me. As I negotiated the busy Hudson River corridor along Manhattan’s western edge at about 700 feet, the helicopter was supremely stable, even given the bit of turbulence we were experiencing. As we approached the George Washington Bridge, Burchill suggested I make a few turns to get a feel for the helicopter. I made a gentle bank to the left and another to the right.
“Here, let me show you something,” Burchill said, taking the controls.
With a smooth but quick motion, he cranked the helicopter over to the left — the horizon was suddenly tilted at a sharp angle. Just as briskly, Burchill hauled the EC 135 to the right and into a hard bank the other way.
“This is why pilots love the EC 135 so much,” he said with a grin, ceding the controls to me.
Next I made a 180 to the south, heading back along the other side of the river. Again, my turn was benign, although a bit steeper than the ones before. Flying in the EC 135 was a blast, and all I could think of as we cut past the megalithic New York City skyline off our left side and headed back for Kearny was how lucky guys like Dave Burchill are.
With ample space for passengers and their baggage, a flat floor and those big sliding doors, the EC 135 can fly you and your guests in supreme comfort a straight-line distance of 340 nautical miles — the distance from Washington to Boston — or somewhat less at its high-speed cruise of 137 knots. That doesn’t sound very fast considering that the Agusta 109E has a top speed of 154 knots while the Bell 429’s top speed is 155 knots. The EC 135 is also smaller than both of these competitors, with an interior volume 60 cubic feet less than the Bell 429’s. But even though it has the smallest outside footprint and the tightest cabin of the three, the EC 135 weighs less and can actually carry more. The EC 135’s basic executive interior has room for five passengers and pilot, while the corporate version can seat seven passengers — meaning you truly can take it all.
And that’s part of the equation that Eurocopter is betting will allow it to make a smooth transition from a leader in utility markets to the first choice in executive-configured helicopters as well. Especially if you need to land in a tight space or on the deck of a yacht, it’s hard to argue there’s any better choice. Small and quiet suit many buyers just fine. When deciding whether to opt for an EC 135 opposed to a more traditional VIP transport, the tradeoffs really aren’t as great as many buyers might think — and the money saved, indeed, is money earned. Once people start to realize this, it’s a good bet that the EC 135 will leap over other qualified candidates and land the corner office job it’s seeking. That’s when the real fun starts.