HIGH ALTITUDE
Maxim|March - April 2020
The world’s coolest and most luxurious helicopters are the ultimate modes of VIP transport
JARED PAUL STERN
Owning one of the world’s coolest and most luxurious heli-copters, which can easily cost several million dollars, is reserved for the world’s elite. Whether it’s a necessity or an indulgence, a high-end heli is a piece of exquisite machinery far beyond the realm of even the most exalted hypercar. While there are workaday versions that can move you efficiently from point A to point B, as well as businesslike birds designed to simply get the job done, executive and VIP choppers remain objects of envy for all but the relatively few for whom they are the ultimate privilege.

In the world of VIP helicopters a few names fly well above the rest, such as Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company; Bell; and Airbus Helicopters, which was rebranded from Eurocopter in 2014. Sikorsky may sound like an exotic name but the brand is based in Connecticut and is the maker of the aircraft bearing the famed Marine One call sign, flown by the U.S. Marines to transport the President of the United States, as well as the famed Black Hawk (and, with Boeing, its much-anticipated potential replacement, the 287-mph SB>1 Defiant), among others. It was founded in 1923 by Russo-Ukrainian immigrant and engineer Igor Sikorsky, widely credited with building the world’s first practical helicopter in 1939—though he worked on a prototype rotor system as early as 1909.

At about $17.6 million, the VIP version of the Sikorsky S-76D is one of the most expensive and well-appointed helicopters in the world. “For more than four decades, corporate executives and heads of state have recognized the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter as the standard of excellence for personal transportation,” says Audrey Brady, Sikorsky’s VP of Commercial Systems and Services. The company states that at least 10 countries rely on the S-76 series to ferry their heads of state in suitable style.

“The spacious, comfortable cabin has been refined to meet the exacting needs of the Fortune 500 business traveler,” Brady tells us, and it can be customized using the finest materials, fabrics and finishes, including wood and leather, with seating configurations ranging from five to eight passengers. “Years of evolution and refinement” have resulted in what Brady calls “the safest, most reliable, most efficient helicopter in its class [for] clients who demand nothing less.”

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