Are you a Top Gear fan?
If you’re a Top Gear fan, you already know the answer to the following question – Which is faster, supercar or private aircraft? Supercar, right? We all saw Clarkson blast a Bugatti Veyron at stratospheric pace across the length of France, while Hammond and May struggled along in a Cessna 172 at a pace barely greater than an old Citroen 2CV…. OK, so we all know to take Top Gear with a large pinch of salt, entertaining but never factual. Even so, that Veyron is mighty quick. Must be the winner….
It comes down to personal opinion…
Wrong. Wrong on several counts. So it’s personal opinion time, with me getting up on my hind legs again and putting the world to rights. First off, lets get a little perspective on the costs. A Cessna 172 isn’t exactly the most expensive aircraft in the world. It’s the Volvo 340 (remember them?) of aircraft. Been around for ever, built to be flown by the lowest common denominator of pilots, with safe, benign handling. It cruises at around 110 mph, by aircraft standards no great shakes. And of course, it needs a runway to depart and arrive onto, so that adds the complication of the commute to the airfield. So let’s even things up a bit.
For a start, lets get rid of the runway.
You don’t really need one if you have a helicopter. Helicopters just need a space to land generally and permission from the land owner to do it. “Helicopters cost millions!” I hear you cry. And a Veyron is cheap change is it? You can buy a brand new Robinson R66 Turbine helicopter for well under one million and still be able to buy a Porsche for getting about. Or if you want one with a big boot, a used Eurocopter EC120 will come in at around £600,000, seats five plus luggage. Both cruise comfortably at around 120 knots, that’s around 140 mph, with no speed cameras, junctions, traffic jams. In a straight line, rules permitting. Now we’re talking.
140mph. And you can use it all.
The Veyron has a top speed the far side of 200mph. At that rate, should you be able to find a space large enough, it’s gulping fuel like a Satrun V rocket. The helicopter is designed to operate very close to it’s maximum speed, economically. The cruise of 140mph is only a few miles an hour short of it’s actual maximum. And because you’re above the traffic jams and trucks, you can cruise at that speed until you need fuel. Ah, yes. Fuel. Turbine helicopters run on something called Jet A1. Reduced taxation on Jet A1 fuel makes it cheaper than 95 Octane. And it smells good when you burn it too.
Don’t believe my maths?
Here’s a real world example. I frequently drive to Bruntingthorpe test track from my home in Yorkshire. It typically takes me arond 2 hours 20 minutes. And that doesn’t matter whether I’m driving a Ferrari 458 Italia or a diesel Landcruiser. The traffic and route I need to take just removes all the pleasure from what I find is a frustrating commute. Last month, we used a helicopter. Lifting from a private location not far from my home, we cruised in a straight line, landing gently just 50 minutes later, decimating my normal journey time.
I rest my case. Oh. One final thing. A supercar always causes a stir when you pull into the car park of that country house hotel for a relaxing weekend break doesn’t it? Try landing on the front lawn in a turbine engined helicopter. I think you’ll find it has the desired effect.