The Helio Courier H-295 that we use for the majority of our aerial photo work is a very special airplane. Here are a few photographs showing the custom wing camera mount, its redesigned instrument panel and links to information on Helios including some of its history and current operators.

N6464V in flight. The Video/motion picture camera mount is under the left wing
The redesigned instrument panel
N6464V in flight near Santa Rosa, California
The cockpit.  I had the seats rebuilt by a custom car shop.
N6464V at Mariposa during the taping of "Over California"
The wing mount with the Sony HDC500 HDTV camera and Nikon lens.
View of the Sony HD camera and mount over Half Dome in Yosemite.
Cineflex 1
Cineflex mounted on door mount base
Cineflex 2
Cineflex mounted on door mount base
Cineflex 3
Cineflex mounted on door mount base

Helio Couriers

There are several models of Couriers around. The only two, or possibly three, to consider are the H-295, the H-250 and the older, lighter, H-395. The 700 and 800 were produced by a different company in the mid 1980s. They're garbage -- an example of how to ruin a really good design.

The Helio was designed for ease of maintenance in the field. It's one of the easiest airplanes to work on, and once mechanics get over the shock of seeing something other than a Cessna or Piper, they love it. The only parts that are not easily obtainable are the landing gear legs and the fuselage cage, but they can be fabricated and repaired. The rest is sheet metal, fiberglass and off the shelf standard parts.

The H-295 has the Lycoming GO-480 G1D6 295 HP geared engine. These are a bit expensive to overhaul, but they are available. The H-250 was created for the South American market. It has a plain vanilla carbureted O-540 -- about as bullet proof a motor as any. The only sacrifice is takeoff performance.

The cruise and slow speed numbers are similar to the H-295.The thing to watch for in the Helio is that it is a pilot's airplane and must be flown all the time. You can't let it take you for a ride. It's a little bit heavy on roll, but the pitch control is fingertip throughout. The landing gear is well forward of the CG to prevent noseovers in soft ground. However, the trade off is a tendency to groundloop. You must have fast feet.

The unique wing design calls for a different technique on landing. The large wing is a laminar flow design (actually the same profile as the P-51 Mustang). The slotted Fowler flaps and automatic Handley Page leading edge slats increase the wing area by about one third when extended. It's possible to maintain altitude at 28 mph, however the CHT will climb rapidly and the deck angle is pretty steep. Hanging on the prop, you can turn the airplane pretty much in it's own wingspan at this speed.

The airplane will not stall. Ailerons and the interceptors (spoilers) that operate in conjunction with them will overcome full opposite rudder deflection. It's possible to make a skidding turn that is absolutely wings level or even banked in the opposite direction at slow speeds without fear of snapping into a spin. With full flaps and slats deployed and the control wheel in your lap, the airplane will descend nose high at about 1200 fpm with full roll authority. To stop the descent, simply add about 5 to 10 inches of manifold pressure depending on your load. Loading, by the way is very easy, it will carry whatever you put in it, and the CG envelope is the very large. It's almost impossible to aft load the airplane.

There are several different landing techniques. One is to fly the approach, as much as is possible, like a normal airplane. This will be slower than you are used to since the flaps won't fully extend above 70mph. At this speed, the deck angle is steeper than you are used to unless you are carrying a bit of power.

Flare is different; there is almost no float, so descent must be arrested with a little power. Another technique is to approach at 55 mph with the nose high and control the descent with power. If you really need to get into that tennis court, this is the way to do it, but the "deadman's curve" applies here. If you don't have 70 mph indicated, you'd better have 700 ft. below you. The landing gear oleo struts will absorb a drop from about 15 ft. -- more than your pride will.

If you are not qualified in taildraggers, I'd suggest getting comfortable in a Citabria, Cessna 180 or similar aircraft before trying a Helio. Then fly for 20 hours or so with an experienced Helio pilot in different wind conditions before setting off on your own.

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