BUYING A HELICOPTER

Why Airbus H125 owners love their helicopters

Owners discuss the beloved aircraft and what continues to make it one of the most popular and capable rotorcraft in operation today.

By: Jen BoyerPosted on: May 28, 2024

The first Aérospatiale AS350 rolled off the production line in 1974. Fifty years, and several name changes later, the Airbus Helicopters H125 is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Owners of the beloved aircraft have arguably only become more dedicated as the helicopter has evolved, making it one of the most popular and versatile rotorcraft in operation today.

Dr. John Shufeldt is an emergency room physician who also runs a medical staffing business that serves close to 50 Native American reservations around the U.S. A dual-rated pilot, he flies both airplanes and helicopters to commute to staffing assignments — depending on the distance from his Scottsdale, Arizona, home.

Shufeldt’s first aircraft was a Schweizer 300, which he owned in the early 1990s to learn to fly. He says the aircraft taught him skills he uses to this day in the H125, as both types have three-bladed fully articulated rotor systems.

He’s since owned an MD 500, Robinson R44, Robinson R66, and Bell 505. However, it was the AS350/H125 that stole his heart.

“You know, every time I had a helicopter, I thought that was the last one I’d own, but that wasn’t the case until the H125,” Shufeldt said.

He had been particularly excited about the Bell 505 but found himself disappointed after taking delivery of the aircraft. He described it as being slow and having an uncomfortable aft center of gravity. Then he flew a friend’s H125. He was sold.

Photo courtesy of John Shufeldt

“A lot of people said it was incredible, and it was,” he shared. “It adds so much power and maneuverability, and it’s very fast. I also really liked that it had the autopilot.”

Shufeldt purchased a new H125 with a paint scheme he designed, upgraded avionics, air conditioning, and autopilot. He took delivery in May 2023 and has used the aircraft to fly all over the American West, mostly for work.

“I work in a lot of very remote areas that can take hours to get to by car,” he explained. “I am able to get there so much faster with the helicopter. For example, sometimes there is an acute staffing issue where I’ve literally been able to start at the airport and get to the hospital — usually using the hospital’s landing pad — within 50 minutes, when it would have taken three hours or more to get there by car.”

When friends are in town, Shufeldt enjoys showing them around Arizona with the helicopter. One of his favorite trips is to fly north to Sedona and land at the town’s iconic airport on a butte after exploring the red rock region. He says he’d do more exploring on his own if he had more time.

Pilot Joe Fisher, on the other hand, has the time, and he makes the most of it with his H125. A former car dealer now retired and living in Anacortes, Washington, he and his pilot wife love to explore in their aircraft. Like Shufeldt, both are dual rated.

“My helicopter is 100 percent for fun trips, and I take it whenever possible,” Fisher said.  

Fisher has been a pilot for more than 40 years, and a helicopter pilot for 30 of them. He also holds an airframe and powerplant license, allowing him to help maintain his aircraft.

He started his helicopter ownership journey with a Schweizer 300C and has since owned an AS350 B3, Bell 505, and MD  500E. In April 2023, he took delivery of a brand new H125 from Airbus’s Mississippi plant and flew it home to Washington via Arizona and the Pacific Coast.

“All of those aircraft had their pros and cons,” he explained. “I loved learning in the Schweizer, it was really the best beginner aircraft, and I really enjoyed my first AStar. I flew it all over the midwest, Arizona, and west. The Bell 505 was a great helicopter, but I’m not a big fan of two-bladed helicopters. They’re just not as smooth or fast, and there are some dynamic concerns I wanted to move away from. The MD 500E was my favorite helicopter to fly. It’s a Ferrari, but it doesn’t have power steering and is not very comfortable [for the pilot or passengers] on long flights.

“The AStar, now H125, is fast, smooth, and has power steering,” Fisher continued. “It has plenty of horsepower to handle any of the situations I’ve flown in, even hot and high locations. The dual hydraulics have even done away with concerns of hydraulic failures. It’s the perfect aircraft.”

Photo courtesy of Joe Fisher

Fisher also appreciates the H125’s flat floor and open cabin. His passengers have a front row seat regardless of where they’re sitting, and he finds of all the aircraft he’s flown, it is the most comfortable for long flights in terms of smooth ride and comfort in the seat. Its only drawback, in his eyes, is the amount of maintenance it requires, which he offsets by doing much of it himself.

Fischer’s favorite thing to do in his H125 is take trips with friends. He recently rented a large Airbnb outside of Palm Springs with enough property for four helicopters to land, and hosted a fly in. During that trip, the flock of helicopters and their owners explored the region together from Lake Havasu to San Diego.

Back home in Washington, Fisher loves flying out to the San Juan Islands, exploring and stopping for meals at restaurants within walking distance of landing sites. He also loves exploring the remote regions of the North Cascades — again, with friends flying along in their own helicopters.

“I really like to explore, but I’m careful about where I go,” Fisher explained. “I’ve dreamed of a flying trip to Alaska, but I don’t want to do it alone. I’ve boated up to Alaska, but if something goes wrong [in a boat], you have options. I feel far more comfortable if there is at least one additional helicopter flying along. That way, if anyone does have an issue, regardless of how remote we are, the other can always help. I’m confident I can survive an engine failure. It’s the surviving after that until you get help that worries me.”

Fisher is set to depart in June 2024 for his dream helicopter trip to Alaska with another friend joining in his own H125.