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How High Can a Helicopter Fly?

The world of aviation never ceases to amaze. The sheer amount of technological innovation is awe-inspiring and leaves aircraft lovers with a whole host of questions about how they operate. For example, we see helicopters almost on a daily basis both in the skies and on TV, but how high can a helicopter actually fly?

To demystify these incredible machines, we've done some research into the altitudes helicopters can reach to satisfy the curiosities of aviation enthusiasts. In this blog, we answer questions such as how high can helicopters fly, how low can they fly, what happens if they fly too high so our readers don't have to!

While helicopters can't reach the heights of fixed wing aeroplanes, they can still reach incredibly impressive heights. Helicopters usually fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet, where the atmosphere provides the most optimal conditions for flight and manoeuvrability.

Turbine-engine helicopters however are able to fly as high as 20,000 to 25,000 feet, although it's important to note this depends on the individual aircraft's engine and its ability to ‘breathe in' thinner air at higher altitudes, as well as the weight of the helicopter's body. Thinner air requires the blades of the helicopter to work harder in order to give the machine adequate lift as the blades encounter more drag and are unable to achieve as much forward momentum as they would at lower altitudes.

When it comes to typical hovering heights, these are much lower than when the aircraft is in forward flight and can depend on two things – whether the helicopter is ‘In Ground Effect' (IGE) or ‘Out of Ground Effect' (OGE). When in OGE, the maximum height at which a helicopter can hover is much lower, at altitudes of around 10,400 feet. But when aircrafts are IGE, meaning they are hovering close to high ground such as mountains, hover altitude can increase to heights of between 12,000 to 13,800 feet. This is because the machine's proximity to the ground helps the aircraft by reducing drag on its blades and significantly lessens the strain of the vortices placed on its rotor tip.

Helicopter Flying Experiences with Red Letter Days

We have an incredible range of thrilling experiences for helicopter enthusiasts at Red Letter Days.

For those who are keen to experience the rush of flight and soak up the UK's most stunning views from on high in the process, our handpicked Helicopter Flights and Experiences are just the ticket. From tours of London to flights over the mountains in Scotland's Perthshire, a helicopter flight is truly an experience like no other and makes for the perfect gift for a special someone.

Or, for those who are eager to learn how to fly under the guidance of a trained pilot, look no further than our unforgettable selection of Helicopter Flying Lessons. After a full safety briefing, take to the skies as a passenger for a flight above the clouds and learn all about the workings of the aircraft before taking over the control of the helicopter for the experience of a lifetime.