top of page

What Happens to a Helicopter When Flying at Higher Altitudes?

Helicopters are capable of flying at a variety of altitudes, but their performance decreases as they fly higher. This is because the air gets thinner at higher altitudes, which makes it more difficult for the helicopter's rotors to generate lift.

Here are some of the specific things that happen to a helicopter when it flies at higher altitudes:

  • The engine has to work harder to produce the same amount of power. This can lead to fuel exhaustion.

  • The rotors have to spin faster to generate the same amount of lift. This can lead to rotor blade stall, which is a condition where the blades lose lift and stop rotating.

  • The helicopter becomes less stable and maneuverable. This can make it difficult for the pilot to control the helicopter.

  • The airframe can become stressed due to the thinner air. This can lead to structural failure.

The maximum altitude that a helicopter can fly is determined by a number of factors, including the type of helicopter, the engine power, the rotor design, and the weight of the helicopter. Most helicopters are limited to altitudes of around 10,000 feet. However, some specialized helicopters can fly much higher.

Helicopters that are designed to fly at high altitudes have engines that are more powerful and rotors that are designed to operate in thinner air. These helicopters also have special features that help to improve their stability and maneuverability at high altitudes.

Here are some examples of helicopters that are designed to fly at high altitudes:

  • The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion is a heavy-lift helicopter that can fly at altitudes of up to 20,000 feet.

  • The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is a medium-lift helicopter that can fly at altitudes of up to 18,000 feet.

  • The Eurocopter AS350 Écureuil is a light helicopter that can fly at altitudes of up to 12,000 feet.

It is important to note that even helicopters that are designed to fly at high altitudes should not be flown at extreme altitudes. The air at these altitudes is very thin and can cause serious problems for the helicopter.

Here are some tips for helicopter pilots who are flying at high altitudes:

  • Be aware of the maximum altitude that your helicopter is certified to fly.

  • Monitor your engine and rotor performance closely at high altitudes.

  • Be prepared for the helicopter to become less stable and maneuverable at high altitudes.

  • Avoid flying at extreme altitudes if possible.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure a safe flight when flying your helicopter at high altitudes.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page