Choosing an optional upgrade

When you’re choosing between different options, it’s easy to get confused.

A helicopter can cost as little as $500,000.

But they can cost as much as $20 million.

This is a difference of four orders of magnitude.

So the question is, do you want the $500,000 option or the $20 million option?

The answer to that question depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

In certain circumstances, it might be worth spending more money on a more expensive option.

But in other circumstances, it might not be worth spending any money at all.

When I first looked into buying a helicopter, I was surprised to discover that they were cheaper than I expected. This is partly because they are so small, but also because they’ve been getting steadily cheaper for years.

This trend has been driven by the same dynamic that’s made personal computers and cell phones so cheap: mass production. Helicopters are mainly used for business, and businesses tend to have fairly standardized needs. So it makes sense to manufacture a single model of helicopter and then sell a lot of them.

The cheapest new helicopter you can buy today is the Robinson R22 Beta II, which costs about $250k.

By contrast the ACH160 starts at $3M, but what you get for your extra money is much better performance.

The ACH160 is twice as fast as the R22 and has almost twice the range. It can carry twice as much weight, which means it can either carry more people or more cargo…or both!

At my company, we’ve been debating whether or not to offer helicopter rides to customers. I think the people who want helicopters, who are willing and able to pay for them, will be good to have as customers. But I don’t know how many there are.

The price of helicopters has come down a lot recently, so now it’s becoming practical for companies like ours to own one. And we can charge a lot for the rides–they’re still pretty cool. But the question is, how many people would take us up on our offer?

I asked some friends about this recently, and one of them gave me his best tip for finding out: ask people if they would go skydiving if it were free. He said that if ten percent or more of the people you ask say yes, then there’s probably a helicopter market.

Well, I did a little survey. Out of twenty-five people I asked, seventeen said they would go skydiving if it were free; one person was an immediate no and seven weren’t sure. Seventeen out of twenty-five is 68%, which is higher than 10%. Does this mean we should buy a helicopter and start offering rides?

All you want is a helicopter. But the only one in your price range is missing some stuff.

The site says:

“The helicopter you are looking at is outfitted with used Bendix-King KX155A Nav/Com radios, Century III Autopilot System, Garmin GTX327 Transponder, and King KLN 94 GPS. This helicopter can be purchased for $90,000 USD with these avionics.”

That sounds OK. You’ve never heard of those brands, but then you don’t know anything about radios or autopilots or whatever.

But it’s missing a few things you want: an attitude indicator, a directional gyro, an engine monitor. They seem pretty important. So you email to ask if they can add them for an extra $8,000—still well under your budget.

No way, says the sales guy; too much work to install them in an older ship like yours. (This model is from 1993.) He offers to sell you another one just like this one, but with all that stuff included. With that setup the price would be $120,000—still under your budget.

You’re not sure whether he’s being straight with you—he seems like a nice guy, but

There are two ways to save a million dollars. One is to make $2 million and put half of it in the bank, where it will earn interest; the other is to spend only $1 million. If you’re spending a million dollars a year, and you expect to live forever, you can’t afford not to buy the extended warranty.

That’s how buying a helicopter works. A helicopter costs about $1 million, but if you lease one for about $10,000 an hour, it’s cheaper than owning a car. And that’s before taxes–if you use your helicopter for business it might be tax deductible.

But there’s more to life than money. If you have a busy schedule and little spare time, the convenience of being able to fly from one meeting directly to another may easily be worth an extra $9,000 an hour.*

So suppose we have two people with identical schedules–both have ten meetings scattered randomly around San Francisco on any given day–and identical cars with comparable prices and upkeep costs–both cost $30,000 and need repairs once every three years. The only difference is that one owns a car and the other rents one by the hour when he needs it. Who will get more work done?*


I want to buy a helicopter.

I’m not rich, but I can afford it. The model I’ve been looking at is about $100k. I’ve had the money for a few years, but I haven’t bought one yet. Not because of the price, but because helicopters are dangerous.

If you read the news, you’d think they were horrifyingly dangerous:

“Helicopter crashes into Manhattan skyscraper.”

“Student pilot dies in helicopter crash.”

“Helicopter crashes into Greek mountainside.”

All true stories so far this year (2019). But the thing is, cars are also dangerous. “Car crashes into tree, killing three,” is equally true, and equally uninteresting to the news media. You see many more headlines like that if you look for them, but compared with helicopters they’re so common we don’t even notice them anymore.

The question is not whether helicopters are dangerous compared with how we’d like them to be. It’s whether they are more dangerous than other things we might do instead. For example:

We’re excited to announce a new price for the A1: $2,099. This is a $900 price reduction from the previous $2,999 MSRP.

The new price is effective immediately and applies to all new reservations. For those who have already reserved at the previous price and want to take advantage of the new pricing, we recommend cancelling and re-reserving at the updated price.

We’ve worked hard to bring down the cost of vertical lift in our quest to make transportation easier and more accessible for everyone. We’re thrilled to now offer an even lower entry point into our helicopter as we continue our efforts to reimagine what transportation can be.

If you have any questions about your reservation or would like to learn more about reserving, please don’t hesitate to reach out via email or by phone at 1-888-923-923

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