The Most Difficult Helicopter to Fly, Ranked

Choose the helicopter you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 19, 2024 06:25
Helicopter pilots face various challenges, one of which is mastering the complexity of different helicopters. Each model has its unique set of demands, making some significantly harder to operate than others. A ranking that identifies which helicopters are the most difficult to fly can provide valuable insights for new pilots and enthusiasts aiming to understand the subtleties of helicopter handling. This ranking is continually updated based on the votes of both experienced pilots and aviation enthusiasts. By participating, voters contribute to a broader knowledge base, helping inform decisions and discussions around helicopter training and operations. Your vote and your voice matter in shaping this insightful resource.

What Is the Most Difficult Helicopter to Fly?

  1. 1
    45
    votes

    CH-47 Chinook

    Boeing Rotorcraft Systems
    The Chinook is a large tandem-rotor helicopter that requires significant skill and experience to fly. Its size and weight make it difficult to maneuver, especially in tight spaces or adverse weather conditions.
    The CH-47 Chinook is a heavy-lift helicopter that is widely regarded as one of the most challenging helicopters to fly. It is designed for both military and civilian use, with a primary focus on transporting troops and equipment in complex and challenging environments.
    • Maximum takeoff weight: 50,000 lbs (22,680 kg)
    • Crew: 3 (pilot, copilot, flight engineer)
    • Length: 98 ft 10 in (30.14 m)
    • Rotor diameter: 60 ft (18.3 m)
    • Maximum speed: 196 mph (315 km/h)
  2. 2
    26
    votes
    The Apache is a highly advanced attack helicopter that requires extensive training to operate. Its advanced avionics and weapons systems make it a challenging aircraft to master.
    The AH-64 Apache is a state-of-the-art attack helicopter used by the United States military. It is designed for close air support, anti-tank warfare, and reconnaissance missions. The Apache is known for its advanced avionics, maneuverability, and firepower.
    • Crew: 2
    • Maximum Speed: 365 km/h (227 mph)
    • Maximum Range: 476 km (296 miles)
    • Weapons: Hellfire missiles, rockets, and a 30mm chaingun
    • Engines: Two General Electric T700 turboshaft engines
  3. 3
    24
    votes
    Mi-24 Hind
    Julian Herzog (Website) · CC BY 4.0
    The Hind is a Russian attack helicopter that is known for its ruggedness and versatility. However, its complex systems and controls make it difficult to fly, especially for inexperienced pilots.
    The Mi-24 Hind is a Soviet/Russian attack helicopter known for its versatility and robust design. It was initially designed as a heavily armored gunship, but later variants also served as a troop carrier and a dedicated attack helicopter. Its distinctive appearance includes a tandem cockpit arrangement and large side-mounted weapon pods.
    • Length: 17.5 meters
    • Rotor diameter: 17.3 meters
    • Height: 6.5 meters
    • Empty weight: 8,500 kg
    • Max takeoff weight: 12,000 kg
  4. 4
    22
    votes
    Bell AH-1 Cobra
    United States Army · Public domain

    Bell AH-1 Cobra

    Bell Helicopter
    The Cobra is a classic attack helicopter that has been in service since the Vietnam War. Its unique design and systems make it a challenging aircraft to fly, especially in combat situations.
    The Bell AH-1 Cobra is a two-blade, single-engine attack helicopter primarily designed for close air support and anti-tank missions. It was developed by Bell Helicopter and entered service in 1967. The Cobra played a significant role during the Vietnam War and has since been used by various countries around the world for combat operations and other military applications.
    • Crew: 2
    • Length: 53 ft 7 in (16.33 m)
    • Rotor diameter: 44 ft (13.41 m)
    • Height: 13 ft 5 in (4.1 m)
    • Empty weight: 5,960 lb (2,703 kg)
  5. 5
    14
    votes

    Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk

    Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
    The Black Hawk is a versatile utility helicopter that is used for a wide variety of missions. Its advanced avionics and systems make it a challenging aircraft to operate, especially in adverse weather conditions.
    The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a versatile and highly capable medium-lift utility helicopter. It is designed to perform various missions, including troop transport, medical evacuation, and search and rescue operations. With its advanced technologies and robust construction, the Black Hawk is recognized as one of the most difficult helicopters to fly due to its complex flight control system and high performance capabilities.
    • Crew: 2 pilots (3 in some variants) plus crew chief and door gunner
    • Capacity: Up to 11 troops or 6 stretchers
    • Length: 64 ft 10 in (19.76 m)
    • Rotor diameter: 53 ft 8 in (16.36 m)
    • Max takeoff weight: 22,000 lb (9,980 kg)
    Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk in other rankings
  6. 6
    9
    votes
    Eurocopter EC135
    Stahlkocher · CC BY-SA 3.0

    Eurocopter EC135

    Airbus Helicopters
    The EC135 is a popular medium-sized helicopter that is used for a wide range of missions, including medical transport and law enforcement. Its advanced avionics and systems make it a challenging aircraft to fly, especially for inexperienced pilots.
    The Eurocopter EC135 is a twin-engine light utility helicopter primarily used for civilian and military purposes. It is known for its versatility, reliability, and advanced technologies, making it a popular choice among helicopter pilots worldwide.
    • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 2,910 kg (6,416 lbs)
    • Maximum Speed: 259 km/h (161 mph)
    • Cruise Speed: 254 km/h (158 mph)
    • Maximum Range: 635 km (395 miles)
    • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206B2 turboshafts, 473 kW (634 hp) each
  7. 7
    8
    votes
    Bell 206 JetRanger
    Mfield - Matthew Field, http://www.photography.mattfield.com · CC BY 2.5

    Bell 206 JetRanger

    Bell Helicopter
    The JetRanger is a classic light helicopter that is popular for training and sightseeing. However, its small size and high performance make it a challenging aircraft to fly, especially in adverse weather conditions.
    The Bell 206 JetRanger is a single-engine, light helicopter primarily designed for civilian use. It has gained popularity as an efficient and reliable utility helicopter since its first flight in 1967. The JetRanger is known for its versatile performance, comfortable cabin, and ease of handling.
    • Max Occupancy: 1 pilot + 4 passengers
    • Length: 39 ft 8 in (12.1 m)
    • Rotor Diameter: 33 ft 4 in (10.2 m)
    • Height: 9 ft 4 in (2.8 m)
    • Empty Weight: 1,465 lb (665 kg)
  8. 8
    4
    votes
    Robinson R22
    Adrian Pingstone · Public domain

    Robinson R22

    Frank Robinson
    The R22 is a popular light helicopter that is often used for training and personal use. However, its small size and high performance make it a challenging aircraft to fly, especially for inexperienced pilots.
    The Robinson R22 is a light, two-seater helicopter that is known for its challenging handling characteristics. It is one of the most difficult helicopters to fly, especially for novice pilots. Despite its difficulty, it remains a popular training helicopter due to its affordability and availability.
    • Engine: Lycoming O-320-A2B, 4-cylinder
    • Horsepower: 160 HP
    • Length: 8.0 m
    • Width: 1.6 m
    • Height: 2.7 m
  9. 9
    7
    votes
    The Hokum is a Russian attack helicopter that is known for its unique coaxial rotor system. However, its complex systems and controls make it a challenging aircraft to fly, especially in combat situations.
    The Kamov Ka-50 Hokum is a single-seat attack helicopter known for its distinctive coaxial rotor system. It was designed by Soviet Helicopters, a subsidiary of the Kamov Design Bureau. The Ka-50 Hokum is known for its firepower, maneuverability, and advanced avionics systems, making it a formidable weapon on the battlefield.
    • Crew: 1
    • Length: 16.0 m
    • Rotor diameter: 14.5 m
    • Maximum speed: 310 km/h
    • Range: 460 km
  10. 10
    3
    votes
    MD Helicopters MD 500
    Adrian Pingstone (Arpingstone) · Public domain

    MD Helicopters MD 500

    MD Helicopters, Inc.
    The MD 500 is a popular light helicopter that is often used for law enforcement and military missions. However, its small size and high performance make it a challenging aircraft to fly, especially in adverse weather conditions.
    The MD Helicopters MD 500, also known as the Hughes 500, is a versatile light helicopter widely used for various military, law enforcement, and civilian applications. It is known for its exceptional agility, speed, and maneuverability, designed to perform in demanding environments and complex missions.
    • First Flight: 1963
    • Length: 9.70 m (31 ft 10 in)
    • Height: 2.81 m (9 ft 3 in)
    • Engine: Allison 250-C20B turboshaft
    • Maximum Speed: 259 km/h (161 mph)

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Ranking factors for difficult helicopter

  1. Complexity of the control system
    Some helicopters have more complex control systems than others, making them more challenging to fly. This can include the use of fly-by-wire technology, the number and placement of control inputs, and the overall design of the cockpit.
  2. Stability
    Some helicopters are inherently more stable than others, making them easier to control and fly. On the other hand, unstable helicopters require more skill and experience to keep them in the air.
  3. Power-to-weight ratio
    Helicopters with a high power-to-weight ratio can be more difficult to manage, particularly in turbulent conditions. This is because they can lift off and maneuver more quickly, making them more challenging to keep under control.
  4. Size
    Larger helicopters tend to be more difficult to fly due to their increased mass, inertia, and complexity. Maneuvering these large aircraft can require a great deal of skill and precision.
  5. Visibility
    The pilot's visibility from the cockpit can have a big impact on the difficulty of flying a helicopter. Limited visibility can make it more challenging to navigate, land, and perform delicate maneuvers.
  6. Responsiveness
    Some helicopters are more responsive to pilot inputs than others. Highly responsive helicopters can be challenging for novice pilots to control, as they can be harder to keep stable in the air.
  7. Performance envelope
    The performance envelope of a helicopter refers to its capabilities in terms of speed, altitude, and other performance factors. Those with a wide performance envelope may be harder to fly, as they require more skill to manage varying conditions and capabilities.
  8. Maintenance and reliability
    Helicopters that require more frequent maintenance are considered more difficult to fly, as pilots must be more cautious and aware of potential issues. Additionally, aircraft that are less reliable may present more in-flight challenges for pilots to manage, increasing the overall complexity and difficulty.
  9. Environmental factors
    The difficulty of flying a helicopter can be heavily influenced by the environment in which it's operating. Factors such as altitude, weather conditions, and terrain can all impact the difficulty of flying a helicopter.
  10. Pilot experience and training
    Ultimately, a helicopter's difficulty to fly is also directly impacted by the pilot's experience and training. More experienced pilots will find it easier to fly complex and challenging helicopters, while novice pilots may find even relatively simple helicopters difficult to handle.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult helicopter to fly. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or helicopter is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!

Statistics

  • 4520 views
  • 176 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each helicopter once every 24 hours. The rank of each helicopter is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

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More information on most difficult helicopter to fly

Flying a helicopter is an immensely challenging task that requires a high level of skill, focus, and experience. Helicopters are incredibly versatile machines that can take off and land vertically, hover in place, and perform complex maneuvers that other aircraft simply can't match. However, they are also notoriously difficult to fly, particularly for novice pilots who are still learning the ropes. One of the most challenging aspects of flying a helicopter is controlling its complex set of controls, which includes the collective, cyclic, and anti-torque pedals. These controls work together to adjust the pitch of the rotor blades, change the direction of flight, and maintain stability in the air. To do this effectively, pilots must have a deep understanding of aerodynamics and physics, as well as a keen sense of situational awareness. Another major challenge for helicopter pilots is dealing with the inherent instability of the aircraft. Unlike fixed-wing planes, which have large wings to provide lift and stability, helicopters rely on the rotation of their rotor blades to stay aloft. This means that even the slightest change in wind or weather conditions can have a significant impact on a helicopter's flight path, making it much harder to control. So, what is the most difficult helicopter to fly? That's a tricky question to answer, as different models have their own unique quirks and challenges. However, some of the most notoriously difficult helicopters to fly include the AH-64 Apache, the CH-47 Chinook, and the Bell 206 Jet Ranger. These aircraft require a high degree of skill and experience to operate safely, and

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