A Detailed Comparison of the new Cabri G2 with Robinson and Schweizer Helicopters
The first of the next generation of piston engine, two seat light helicopters was delivered on September 19, 2008. This helicopter, named the Cabri G2, is built by Helicopteres Guimbal of France. The designer of the aircraft and founder of the company, Bruno Guimbal, is a former Eurocopter engineer. The European Aviation Safety Agency awarded the Cabri G2 its type certificate on December 15, 2007.
The Cabri G2 incorporates the latest in carbon fiber composite technology for its fuselage, tail boom, and main and tail rotor blades to reduce weight while increasing strength. Designed with the flight training market in mind, the aircraft’s structure is incredibly strong, capable of protecting its passengers when dropped from an as-tested height of 15 meters. Additional safety features incorporated into the design are a fully articulated, high inertia three blade main rotor system to increase engine failure response times and to eliminate mast bumping. A shrouded fenestron tail rotor reduces the risk of tail rotor strike damage or injury.
The piston engine helicopter training market is dominated by the Robinson R22 and the Schweizer 300 series helicopters, which are the Cabri G2’s direct competitors. The latest versions of these are the R22 Beta II and the 300 CBi, respectively. The Cabri G2’s designer seems to have taken the best features of his competitors, taken detailed notes from their record, and incorporated these lessons into one helicopter.
Similar in size to the R22, the Cabri G2’s light weight carbon fiber structure allowed the designer to engineer a wide cabin comparable to that of the much larger four seat Robinson R44 Raven Series (please refer to Table 1) while weighing only 43 kilograms more than the two seat R22 Beta II (Table 2).
The Cabri G2 seems to conveniently sit between the R22 Beta II and the Schweizer 300 CBi in size and useful load. Many who have flown the R22 would welcome the extra space provided by the Cabri G2 without the weight and speed penalties encountered by the 300 CBi.
Dimension Specifications of Cabri G2, 300 CBi R22 Beta II, and R44 Raven I and II
|Meter/Feet||Cabri G2||300 CBi||R22 Beta II||R44 Raven|
|Fuselage Length||6.31 / 20.70||6.76 / 22.19||6.58 / 21.58||8.97 / 29.42|
|Cabin Width||1.24 / 4.07||1.30 / 4.25||1.12 / 3.67||1.24 / 4.08|
|Height||2.37 / 7.77||2.18 / 7.17||2.72 / 8.92||3.28 / 10.75|
|Main Rotor Diameter||7.20 / 23.62||8.18 / 26.83||7.67 / 25.17||10.06 / 33.00|
|Tail Rotor Diameter||.60 / 1.97||1.30 / 4.25||1.07 / 3.5||1.47 / 4.83|
The Cabri G2’s sleek composite fuselage and advanced rotor system also give it a maximum speed of 130 kts (241 kph), matching that of the much more powerful R44 Raven II (Table 2). The Cabri’s maximum cruising speed is four knots (7.4 kph) faster than the R22 Beta II’s, and 20 kts (37 kph) faster than the 300 CBi’s.
Where the Cabri G2 falls short is in its altitude performance, perhaps due to its smaller main rotor diameter (please refer to Table 1). Unfortunately, the Cabri G2’s performance charts are not publicly accessible as yet, so a detailed analysis of its density altitude performance isn’t possible. It would be interesting to analyze the performance of the Cabri G2 at the R22 Beta II’s max gross weight.
Technical Specifications Comparison
|Specs||Helecopteres Guimbal Cabri G2||Schweizer 300 CBi||Robinson R22 Beta II||Robinson R44 Raven I||Robinson R44 Raven II|
|Base Price||$355,742US 249,000Euro||$298,500US 208,741Euro||$240,000US 167,832Euro||$330,000US 230,769Euro||$400,000US 279,720Euro|
|Empty Weight||430kg / 946 lbs||500kg / 1102 lbs||387kg / 855 lbs||656kg / 1442 lbs||685kg / 1506 lbs|
|Max Gross Weight||700kg / 1540 lbs||795kg / 1750 lbs||623kg / 1370 lbs||1091kg / 2400 lbs||1136kg / 2500 lbs|
|Useful Load||270kg / 594 lbs||294 kg / 648 lbs||236kg / 519 lbs||435kg / 958 lbs||451kg / 994 lbs|
|Useful Load with 2hrs Fuel||215kg / 473 lbs||237kg / 522 lbs||184kg / 404 lbs||359kg / 790 lbs||375kg / 826 lbs|
|Fuel Capacity||170 L / 45 gal US||242 L / 64 gal||112 L / 29.7 gal||185 L / 48.9 gal||185 L / 48.9 gal|
|Engine||Lycoming O-360-J2A||Lycoming HIO-360||Lycoming O-360-J2A||Lycoming O-540 FIB5||Lycoming IO-540 AE1A5|
|Max Cruise Speed||185kph / 100kts||148kph / 80kts||178kph / 96kts||209kph / 113kts||216kph / 117kts|
|VNE||240kph / 130kts||174kph / 94kts||189kph / 102kts||222kph / 120kts||241kph / 130kts|
|IGE max gross||1524m / 5000ft||2133m / 7000ft||2866m / 9400ft||1951m / 6400ft||2729m / 8950ft|
Perhaps more important to flight school operators is the helicopter’s cost of ownership. Not only must a machine be cheap to acquire, it must be cheap to operate in the narrow profit margin realm of flight training. High insurance rates need to be offset by low maintenance, fuel, and overhaul costs. Here, too, the Cabri G2 appears to be at a disadvantage, but it may hold a card up its sleeve.
The Cabri G2 has a higher base price than all but theR44 Raven II (Table 2). The R44 Raven I is the closest in price to the Cabri G2, and is in fact, being promoted by the Robinson Helicopter Company as a better trainer than the R22 because of the Raven I’s more forgiving flight characteristics for flight training. Although the R44 Raven I has a more versatile four seat configuration and greater payload, these features are seldom needed for flight training and only increase fuel consumption.
The manufacturers’ published hourly direct operating costs (DOC) need to be examined carefully; they are not readily comparable (please refer to Table 3). The figures presented by Helicopteres Guimbal for the Cabri G2 appear to have the most accurate “real world” estimates. Schweizer Aircraft’s DOC did not include insurance and was calculated for 1000 hours per year of use. Robinson Helicopter Company’s DOC reflected 500 hours per year of use. All manufacturers used different fuel prices.
Manufacturer\'s Published Hourly Direct Operating Costs.
|Helicopter||Direct Operating Cost/hr (US/Euro)||Notes|
|Helicopteres Guimbal Cabri G2||$232.80 / 162.80Euro||500hrs/year; labor cost @ $85.71 (60Euro)/hr; hull insurance (6% acquisition price) @ $21,340 (14940Euro)/yr; liability insurance @ $4055 (2840Euro)/yr; fuel and oil @ $88.11 (61.7Euro)/hr|
|Schweizer 300 CBi||$107.25 / 75.00Euro||1000 hrs/yr; labor cost @ $55(38.46Euro)/hr; fuel @ $5/gal ($1.32 / .92Euro/L); insurance not included in calculations|
|Robinson R22 Beta II||$112.06 / 78.36Euro||500 hrs/yr; labor cost @ $65(45.45Euro)/hr; hull insurance @ $6130 (4276.81Euro)/yr; liability insurance @ $1920(1342.66Euro)/yr; fuel @ $4.25/gal ($1.12 / .78Euro/L)|
|Robinson R44 Raven I||$164.71 / 115.18Euro||500 hrs/yr; labor cost = $65(45.45Euro)/hr; hull insurance @ $7075(4947.55Euro)/yr; liability insurance @ $2560(1790.21Euro)/yr; fuel @ $4.25/gal ($1.12 / .78Euro/L)|
|Robinson R44 Raven II||$174.16 / 121.79Euro||500 hrs/yr; labor cost = $65(45.45Euro)/hr; hull insurance @ $8480(7720.27Euro)/yr; liability insurance @ $2560(1790.21Euro)/yr; fuel @ $4.25/gal ($1.12 / .78Euro/L)|
Recalculating the manufacturers’ DOC using similar values provides a more realistic comparison (please refer to Table 4 below). However, since a lot of the manufacturers’ published data is still used and not verified, the figures in these tables represent estimates only and do not represent real world results. They should be used for comparison purposes only.
Comparing the Adjusted DOC from Table 4 with the published DOC from Table 3, one can see the variability in how manufacturers calculate their DOC. Using the adjusted DOC without estimated insurance will give more useful values for comparison purposes.
Adjusted Hourly Direct Operating Costs (DOC) US / Euro
|Helicopter||Adjusted Hourly DOC's||Adjusted DOC w/o Estimated Insurance||Per Cent Relative to Cabri G2 DOC w/o Insurance|
|Helicopteres Guimbal Cabri G2||$207.21 / 144.90Euro||$156.42 / 109.38Euro||0|
|Schweizer 300 CBi (*Note 1)||$164.04 / 114.71Euro||$120.11 / 83.99Euro||-23.2|
|Robinson R22 Beta II (*Note 2)||$144.59 / 101.11Euro||$107.68 / 75.30Euro||-31.2|
|Robinson R44 Raven I (*Note 3)||$211.41 / 147.80Euro||$163.70 / 114.48Euro||+7.3|
|Robinsn R44 Raven II (*Note 4)||$226.46 / 158.36Euro||$170.35 / 119.12Euro||+8.9|
*Note: Hull insurance at 6% base price/yr; liability insurance at $4,055(2840€)/yr; labor at $85.61(60€)/hr; fuel at $5/gal ($1.32(.92€)/L)
1. Based on 1000 hrs/yr, costs for 500 hrs/yr will be higher.
2. Factory Overhaul Price as of January 15, 2008 = $125,000/87,412.50€ plus upgrades increases hourly DOC by $5.84/4.08€.
3. Factory Overhaul Price as of January 15, 2008 = $183,500/128,321.55€ plus upgrades increases hourly DOC by $13.12/9.18€.
4. Factory Overhaul Price as of January 15, 2008 = $199,500/139,510.35€ plus upgrades increases hourly DOC by $13.80/9.65€.
Based on this analysis, the Robinson R22 Beta II is the most affordable helicopter, both to acquire and operate. It has excellent high density altitude performance, which increases its safety margins. It also has a well deserved reputation for reliability.
Where the R22 Beta II lags is in its inherent design – very light weight and lightning quick responses. It reacts very quickly to any control input and its light weight rotor blades require instantaneous reaction during an engine failure to keep from stalling, characteristics that are not desirable for inexperienced students and pilots.
The next most affordable helicopter in this analysis is the Schweizer 300 CBi. Its larger cabin, higher payload, and lower operating costs are the reason that this helicopter is popular with so many flight schools and remains competitive with the lower priced R22 Beta II. As a personal use helicopter, though, the Schweizer 300 CBi’s utilitarian design and slow cruise speed make it less attractive.
The Robinson R44 Raven I compares quite favorably with the Cabri G2, being seven percent cheaper to purchase and only seven percent more expensive to operate hourly. This means that you would have to fly the Raven I for over 3,500 hours before you make up the difference in the cost of the Cabri G2. With room for four people, a high inertia rotor system, and a high cruising speed, the Raven I is tough to beat.
The Robinson R44 Raven II was included to represent the upper end of the piston engine light helicopter market. It is also used as a trainer, but its excellent performance makes it a very versatile machine performing missions such as external loads, tours, and electronic news gathering. Other than lower acquisition and operating costs, the Cabri G2 has almost no advantages over the R44 Raven II outside of the training environment.
The Cabri G2’s higher acquisition cost places it in competition with the larger and more powerful R44 Raven I, but not competitive with the lower priced Schweizer 300CBi and the Robinson R22 Beta II.
The Cabri G2 hasn’t been certified to fly in the United States, one of the largest markets for training and personal helicopters. The current exchange rate between the Euro and the U.S. dollar makes American sales highly unlikely in the near future. From a strictly economic standpoint, the Cabri G2 would appear to have no chance of gaining a foothold in the piston engine light helicopter market, but its advantages over the more economical helicopters shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly.
The Cabri G2’s fully articulated, high inertia rotor system is smooth, safe, and forgiving in a training environment. The value of this feature could be translated into lower accident rates and lower insurance premiums. Any pilot would welcome the nonexistent risk of mast bumping. The fenestron tail is another immeasurable benefit, offering protection from tail strikes and, possibly, increased tail rotor authority.
Finally, the Cabri G2’s all composite rotorblades have a theoretical infinite life. They have a mandatory retirement time of 6,000 hours, as opposed to 2,200 hours and 4,000 hours for the Robinson and Schweizer aircraft, respectively. As more experience is gained with the Cabri G2, this replacement time limit could be converted to “on condition.” Considering the expense of replacing helicopter main and tail rotor blades, this could be the ultimate cost saving feature of the Cabri G2.