On March 6, 2019, the second day of Heli Expo in Atlanta, Bruno Guimbal has sold three Cabri to North American Helicopter. This sale reinforces the presence of the French helicopter manufacturer on the American campuses.
“Heli Expo is the place to be because it gives us the opportunity to meet customers from all over the world. We welcome a lot of visits on the booth that we share with our distributor, Precision Helicopters. We have already sold about 30 Cabri in the United States and we could sell at least 300 more in the next ten years given the number of existing schools “explains Bruno Guimbal.
There are no less than 300 helicopter flying schools in the United States, including a dozen using the twin-seater manufactured in Aix, in the south of France. The potential market remains huge and Helicoptères Guimbal certainly has a major advantage with the Cabri, in the absence of competition of a such modern and economic helicopter.
In this context, the sale of three machines to North American Helicopter is important because it represents a strong development axis for Helicoptères Guimbal, that of universities offering a flight training cursus. “Universities demand a very high level of quality and safety for their education,” says Chris Bailey, CEO of North American Helicopter. “Our company offers them turnkey training programs, with the helicopter, the instructor and the training course. We started our operations four years ago with the Cabri which now equips three facilities across the country. “
After starting operations on Robinson and Schweizer in the 1990s, North American Helicopter turned to the Cabri when it faced difficulties with the maintenance on the Schweizer. The company was one of the first operators of the Cabri in North America. It has now six machines, to which will be added in the coming weeks the three ones purchased during Heli Expo. It also operates Bell and EC120 whose technical proximity with the Cabri has prompted it to choose the French twin-seater. The acquisition of new Cabri will allow North American Helicopter’s partner universities to intensify their activity. The company expands its network by signing a new university partnership every 18 months.
Just over a two-hour drive from Atlanta, Middle Georgia State University operates its flight training center at the “Heart of Georgia” Regional Airport in Eastman. It is the only flying school integrated with the university system in Georgia. The place reflects the American standards, that is to say vast, modern and functional, in a wooded and very sparsely populated environment.
The university currently has 30 fixed winged aircraft, four helicopters (one Robinson R44 and three Cabri) and many simulators. The school is remarkably equipped. The facilities are large, very well equipped with teaching aids and all the training aircraft have modern avionics. Nothing is missing to deliver a wide variety of aeronautical training (management, air traffic, airframe and engine maintenance, etc.).
Airplane training dominates the aeronautical activity, however about twenty students follow the helicopter training courses. Most of them are young students, but there are also former military people, « the veterans » who use their benefits from their military service to pursue graduate studies associated with aeronautical training. The steps of the training are the same for everyone and follow one another quickly, at the rate of one qualification per semester or per year: first the private pilot license obtained after 40 flight hours. Then the commercial pilot license, obtained after 150 flight hours, and finally the flight instructor qualification, mendatory to become a professional pilot.
The Cabri is now an essential part of Middle Georgia State University teaching. The first two aircraft in service since 2017 have accumulated to date 1200 flight hours. The third, more recently delivered, has logged 300 flight hours in 18 months.
“It’s a very safe training helicopter and that’s something I insist on when I get parents to sign up for their kids,” says Colton Hummer, the young chief instructor of the helicopter branch. “I take a tour of the aircraft with them, showing them all the equipment and technical choices that guarantee safety, and especially the crash resistant fuel cell and seats. The quality of its rotor and its fenestron also makes it a very safe helicopter. The Cabri is very comfortable and has a very predictable behavior in flight, which is reassuring for students … and instructors. The autorotation can be done easily and safely: I can leave the controls to my student longer before eventually taking them back to complete the maneuver.
The Cabri is appreciated for its low consumption: less than 9 gallons an hour, against 12.5 for the Schweizer and about 15 for the R44. In summer, when the outside temperature exceeds 38°C, the power is a little limited. But is it really a handicap? There’s nothing to fly at the hottest hours of the day and, as Colton Hummer points out : « It’s a good exercise for the student to learn to manage a limited engine power».