Cabri G2: Best Small Helicopter in the World
When talking about small helicopters, the Robinson R22 is probably the most widely known and has been setting the standard for many years. It’s a classic by itself with more than four thousand units built.
Nowadays, however, there is a new player on the field. It’s the Cabri G2 helicopter build by Guimbal Helicopters in France. And it has superior capabilities in many areas such as:
- Great safety due to never-seen-before safety features
- Modern cockpit with display
- Great performance, holds several world records in its class
Bruno Guimbal, now the CEO of Guimbal Helicopters, was a former employee of Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) and designed the G2. It first flew in March of 2005. Production then started in 2008. While it has been flying in Europe and New Zealand for several years, it only got its US certification in February of 2015. Up to now only about 100 units were built, but Guimbal Helicopters just doubled its manufacturing capacities to cope with the rapidly increasing demand.
So what’s cool about this new helicopter? First of all, like every small helicopter, it’s a ton of fun to fly! But there is more: it’s unsurpassed in its safety features, modern, has great performance and is very economic in its maintenance. I am happy to be getting flying lessons on this helicopter and will tell you about this type and my experience with it.
Safety Features and Innovations
When you are sitting in a single engine helicopter, you are very dependent on this single engine working. Therefore the Cabri G2 uses the very reliable Lycoming O-360 engine, an air-cooled four-cylinder horizontally opposed piston engine. Now this is nothing new as this engine has been introduced by Lycoming in 1955. Regarding the safety, however, it is important that this engine has a 60 year track record of reliable operation in small aircrafts and helicopters. It’s definitely not optimized for low fuel consumption, using approximately 9-10 gallons of Avgas an hour, but its reliability is outstanding. If you are up in the air, this is worth more than a little money saved on fuel!
In the unlikely event that the engine quits while flying, you are still in very good shape in the Cabri G2. Fortunately helicopters have the ability to autorotate in such an event. This means that the rotor keeps rotating through the upward wind flow through the rotor during descent. Therefore, the helicopter stays fully maneuverable and can be landed safely. However, the pilot needs to be very quick in his reaction to enter the autorotation state before the rotor loses too much rotary speed. With three relatively heavy rotor blades, the pilot of a Cabri G2 has ample reaction time compared to other helicopters to enter into the autorotation state. This makes piloting easier and therefore safer during such an emergency event. According to a US Army evaluation scale on autorotation criteria, the R22 ranges "poor" while the Cabri G2 ranges "very good", exceeding the minimum US Army requirements by 50%. Guimbal Helicopters itself explains the name “Cabri” with the acronym Comfort In Autorotation Belongs to Rotor Inertia. This does not also allow a safe autorotation training, which is key to a good pilot training, but also allows safe landing in case of an actual power failure.
In the video below you can see what an actual full-down autorotation looks like.
Additionally, the G2 helicopter is the first crash tested helicopter with crash tested high-absorpion seats. Should the helicopter crash on the ground, the seats will absorb a lot of the shock and the pilot and passenger can well survive a crash with a rate of descent of up to 2000 feet per minute. That is the equivalent to a 16.5 ft (5 m) free fall or an unbreaked autorotation. According to Guimbal Helicopters, this is 8 to 15 times more energy absorbed than competitors.
Also the fuel tank is designed as a dual-structure, untearable bladder tank, using the same technology as combat helicopters and the Formula 1. This has been put to the test by a 49 ft (15 m) free fall test and there was no leackage. So the tank most likely will not leak in the event of a crash, therefore preventing a disastrous fire after the crash.
Another safety feature is the modern Fenestron-type tail rotor. The encapsulation protects the tail rotor from damage and contact with terrain. So a tail rotor loss is much more unlikely and it’s also less noisy and safer for people on the ground while the helicopter is operating.
Modern Glas Cockpit and Materials
Glas cockpit does not mean that the cockpit has lots of glas windows as I thought in the beginning. Actually the windows are made out of plastics to reduce weight. Glas cockpit means that the instrument data is shown on a modern electronic display. The Cabri G2 is equipped with such a modern flight display inside the cockpit, the so-called MLI (Multiple Limits Indicator). There the engine and rotor parameters are shown on it rather than on single instruments. This allows to specifically highlight certain parameters that are in an abnormal range.
Another evidence of its modernity is the use of composite materials for the cabin and the tail rotor shaft. This reduces weight and therefore enhances the performance.
A small baggage compartment behind the cabin is especially useful for overnight trips.
Another feature of the Cabri G2 is its outstanding performance in its class. Let’s start by saying that since shortly after the first flight, the helicopter holds three world records in its class:
- Altitude achieved without payload: 21,844ft
- Time to climb to 9,840ft (3000m): 6min 42sec
- Time to climb to 19,680ft (6000m): 22min 6sec
The engine is the same than in the R22, but produces 21hp more due to an additional plasma ignition system. So the engine produces up to 145hp compared to 124hp in the R22. While being comparable in normal cruise speed, the Cabri G2 is especially outstanding in its endurance. The regular fuel tank holds 45 gallons of Avgas, allowing to fly a distance of about 435 miles nonstop.
This high endurance, combined with its stability and maneuverability, makes it perfect for naval operations. Frontier Helicopters in New Zealand uses the Cabri G2 onboard of tuna boats to spot schools of fish. Also long distance cross country flights are easy and do not require auxillary fuel tanks.
It can rightfully be said that the Cabri G2 is currently the best small training helicopter in the world. Bruno Guimbal himself said that he designed it especially for that reason. Again, what makes the helicopter outstanding is:
- Foremost its unsurpassed safety features
- Its modern glass cockpit and use of compound materials
- Its state-of-the-art Fenestron tail rotor
- Its outstanding endurance of 435 miles
- Its economic maintenance
If you ever get the chance, go for a ride in this cool helicopter! The Oregon based company Precision Helicopters is the first in the US to use the Cabri in their training operations.
How a Cabri G2 is Build
In the video from Guimbal Helicopters below, you can see how this helicopter is build. There is also some amazing flying footage towards the end. Enjoy watching!
Equiped Empty Weight
925 lb (420 kg)
Maximum Gross Weight
1542 lb (700 kg)
90 kt (166 km/h or 104 mph)
Maximum Level Speed
100 kt (185 km/h or 115 mph)
Never Exceed Speed
130 kt (240 km/h or 150 mph)
Maximum Fuel Capacity
45 US Gal (170 l)
0.4 US Gal (1.5 l)
Avgas 100 LL
Main Rotor Blades
Main Rotor Diameter
23.6 ft (7.2 m)
Main Rotor Speed
Tail Rotor Blades
Tail Rotor Diameter
23.6 in (0.6 m)
Tail Rotor Speed
Maximum Endurance (50 kt)
5 hours 40 minutes
Range (85%, 15 min reserve)
380 NM (437 miles or 700 km)
IGE Hovering Ceiling (Max Weight)
Hovering Ceiling (154kg + 2 hrs fuel)