By Alexis Dean-Shubin
Chubby and flying is a hot topic, but Chubby and flying in a helicopter? That is something I don’t ever see, or hear about. Until recently I had flown in commercial airplanes for travel, and small airplanes for sightseeing, but never a helicopter! I thought that the weight limits would be below 200lbs, it would be a cramped space, and I would have problems with a seat belt (if a company would even let me book with them). Heck, I even thought that because I’m chubby that maybe the aircraft wouldn’t be balanced right from all my weight.
Well..The only way to find out more about this was to get in one! I did that with Alpine Air Alaska. I took a Robinson 44 helicopter from Girdwood Alaska, up to a gorgeous glacier that I got to walk around on, then I went back again to another glacier and went dog sledding! In the summer. Can you believe it? Going on this trip busted a bunch of myths and phobias I had about helicopters, let me go over a couple of them with you!
One of the biggest questions I had was about weight limits. I don’t like talking about my weight, but if you ever go on a helicopter or small airplane tour they are required by the FAA to ask for it. Weight limits in helicopters exist not because they don’t want larger people flying, or that we might be too “large” for the aircraft. It’s because of manufacturer set limits, and a thing called “weight and balance.” For this company, the weight limit for the seats in the small four seater helicopters I experienced was 300lb per seat. However, I learned that there are helicopters of different sizes and the weight limits per seat vary from 240lb to 350lbs. This is something I never knew before.
I’ve also learned that a thing called “weight and balance” in a helicopter or small aircraft travel is very important. That is why even if you’re under the seat weight limit, it’s possible you’ll have to split into different helicopters or buy an extra seat. The policy varies from company to company. Every helicopter has its own overall weight limit it can carry. So if myself, and two of my friends wanted to ride together in a 600lb weight limit helicopter, all of us would need to weigh under 200lbs.
Don’t feel discouraged if you weigh over any of these weight limits - there are still options for you! Before booking with a helicopter company, call them to ask about the weight limits. Other options may be doing a small airplane tour instead! At the end of the day, it’s all about what is the safest for you.
So let’s talk about getting inside the helicopter. I will be honest, I was worried I would feel like a sardine in a flying can when I first saw the helicopter. I learned that helicopters used in tourism aren’t those huge ones we see on television, usually they’re a maximum of six passengers. I sat in the back seat on a helicopter with three passengers and one pilot with plenty of room! The seat belts were similar to the ones you’d find in a car, and not like the commercial airline belts. Whew that was a relief. Getting in an out of the helicopter was pretty easy and similar to getting into a truck. If someone has mobility issues with bending their legs, with a little help there should be no problem getting in.
After these tours, I’ve been shown a whole new world. Exploring new areas by air is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Soaring over high mountain peaks, following winding rivers to their source, seeing wildlife in their natural environment is just incredible. I know that I will be doing more helicopter tours in my future! I hope that one day you will go on one too; I want to hear all about it.
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