Why Can’t Helicopters Fly At High Altitude?

Assuming you’ve at any point been to an airport and watched the helicopter taking off, you might have noticed that it flies extremely low. In fact, there are plenty of cases where helicopters can’t fly at all or must fly at exceptionally low altitudes because of weather or other reasons. So Why Can’t Helicopters Fly At High Altitude? It’s not because of the absence of motor power or propellers, here’s why.

Helicopters are astonishing machines, but they have one major limitation. They can’t fly at high altitudes! In fact, the most extreme altitude you’ll see a helicopter operate at is about 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. Regarding vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, helicopters rule because of their ability to move in any direction without turning the rotors.

Can't Helicopters Fly At High Altitude

Flying high in a helicopter takes some astounding feats of design and design. Although helicopters cannot fly as high as their fixed-winged counterparts, they can do astounding things like rescue individuals from some of the world’s highest mountains!

 Most helicopter manufacturers limit their helicopters to around 20,000-25,000 feet for typical flight operations. The authority altitude record for a helicopter flight is 12,954 m (42,500 ft) set by Fred-North in 2002 and the highest landing was on Mount Everest at 8,848 m (29,030 ft) in 2005.

So, Why Can’t Helicopters Fly At High Altitude? As with everything in aviation, having the option to fly high requires execution that is always a trade-off between designing, aerodynamics, and business pressures.

Helicopter Fly At High Altitude

Helicopters usually fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet, though turbine-motor helicopters can fly as high as 25,000 feet. With regard to floating, it depends on whether a helicopter is In Ground Effect (IGE) or Out of Ground Effect (OGE).

At the point when IGE, a helicopter can float at a higher altitude because it gets help from the proximity of the ground, which reduces the rotor tip vortices, for example, reduces the drag on the rotor. Regardless, the greatest altitude a helicopter can float is a lot lower than while in sending flight, at an altitude of around 12,000 feet.

Some Interesting Facts About Helicopters

  • Helicopters are also called choppers, rotorcraft, copters, and whirlybirds, among other names.
  • Helicopters typically have two rotors: one at the top and one at the tail.
  • Assuming that the helicopter motor stops mid-air, pilots are trained to play out an auto-rotation to safely carry themselves and the passengers to the ground.
  • They can lift exceptionally weighty items. Russian helicopter Mil Mi-12 Homer has had the option to lift over 40,000 kgs to a height of 2,255 meters.
  • Propelling rotors of a helicopter can surpass the speed of sound, although they travel at speeds a lot lower than airplanes.
  • Leonardo da Vinci is said to have designed a helicopter, as shown by a 15th-century design paper.
  • Helicopters are sometimes used in cherry cultivation to dry excessively downpour-soaked cherries and prevent them from detonating.
  • There are north of 56,200 helicopters all over the planet.

Reasons That Stop A Helicopter From Flying Higher

A helicopter can’t fly at exceptionally high altitudes because it simply isn’t designed to do so. The principal issue is that to fly, a helicopter’s blades must deliver lift. Because the lift is proportional to the density at a particular altitude, as the altitude increases, the density decreases, for example, the air becomes thinner.

While a helicopter can compensate by increasing the groundbreaking pitch at a certain altitude, this no longer becomes possible. At the point when a helicopter’s blades are presently not ready to create left, the greatest density altitude is reached and it cannot fly any higher. In aviation, this point is known as the roof.

In aviation, there is always a trade-off between execution, designing, aerodynamics, and cost. While technically workable to fly higher, the cost of designing such a helicopter wouldn’t appear to be legit unless there would be sufficient interest in it.

As you go higher in the atmosphere, the pneumatic stress reduces. Less pneumatic stress means fewer air molecules in some random space. Take the 1-foot solid shape once more. The solid shape at sea level will have each air atom above it being pulled to the surface by gravity, so the block will be tightly loaded with molecules.

That same 3D square at 10,000 ft will have fewer air molecules above it being pulled down, so fewer air molecules will be stuffed into the block. Therefore, the higher a helicopter flies, the less pneumatic force, thus the fewer air molecules the motor and rotor blades need to work with/on.

If Helicopter Flies Too High

A helicopter pilot needs to be exceptionally cautious that a helicopter does not surpass its greatest operating altitude because it causes extreme turbulence, resulting in the helicopter turning out to be extremely unstable and perhaps even powerless as its blades stall.

Helicopter cabins are usually not pressurized. So regardless of whether a helicopter was to fly exceptionally high, supplemental oxygen would be required when over 12,500 feet MSL for over 30 minutes, and anytime over 14,000 feet MSL. This is shown by regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The Highest Altitude a Helicopter Has Flown

The highest altitude a helicopter has at any point reached is 40,820 feet (12,442 meters). This was set by Jean Boulet in 1972 while piloting an Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama, which is a French single-engine helicopter, regardless of service to this day. Interestingly, Jean set a couple more records that day, though they were accomplished unintentionally.

Whenever Jean descended, the motor flared out because of the extreme virus. This resulted in him playing out the highest ever power off, full touchdown autorotation, arriving with absolutely no power. Jean is also credited with the largest altitude flown with an autogyro because of his unpowered flight back to the ground.

Record For Highest Altitude In A Helicopter

The record for the highest altitude flight in a helicopter is 40,820 feet. It was set in 1972 by French pilot Jean Boulet while piloting a SA 315 Lama, which is a single-motor helicopter. The record stands to this day.

Alongside accomplishing the highest altitude recorded in a helicopter, the flight set two or three additional records. At the point when Boulet started descending, the chilly environment caused the motor to fire out. He arrived with no power, setting the record for the highest ever, full-touchdown autorotation, and the largest altitude flown with an auto-gyro.

Special Helicopters Can Go That High

Helicopters that can go that high exist. They comprise extremely strong engines and huge rotors, while also being staggeringly light. Manufacturing such helicopters are obviously quite expensive, and since the operational requirements of most helicopters don’t request flying, high normal helicopters aren’t designed that way.

Although high-altitude conditions are troublesome for standard helicopters, exceptions happen. Didier Delsalle, a French fighter pilot, actually handled a helicopter, the Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel, on Mount Everest in 2005. After sitting at the summit for 3 minutes and 50 seconds,


You might have heard that Why Can’t Helicopters Fly At High Altitude? but it turns out that this statement isn’t entirely true! In fact, you’ll learn here that helicopters can fly at high altitudes, given that certain safety precautions are taken and certain changes are made to the helicopter itself. You’ll also find out about some of the many fascinating applications of helicopters and what makes them such useful tools in both the military and common industries.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can’t helicopters fly at night?

Visual Flight Using Night-Vision Goggles. At the point when helicopters need to fly into remote and dim parts of the district, pilots lose their visual cues of where the skyline is, and this becomes an issue as the pilot won’t realize what direction is up. On moonless nights, it can become impossible to see what is ground and what is the sky.

Can a helicopter fly over the sea?

A helicopter can fly across the Atlantic and this has been accomplished several times. The first transatlantic helicopter flight took place in 1952. The first constant transatlantic helicopter flight took place in 1967.

Is it difficult to figure out how to fly a helicopter?

Becoming a helicopter pilot isn’t easy. There’s a lot of studying, difficult work, and dedication that goes into procuring a pilot’s license. Whenever you’ve put in the effort, the award will far outweigh the cost. Following your dreams is possible with a pilot’s license.

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