How Much Weight Can a Helicopter Lift and Carry

Helicopters come in many sizes and can accommodate numerous tasks from delivering heavy bricks to a construction site to providing assistance in times of civil unrest. For this reason, people in charge of projects such as this often want to know how much the helicopter can lift, i.e., carry in the chopper.

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How Much Can a Helicopter Lift?

To determine the capacity of the helicopter to carry loads, there is usually a formula used. Most often, the basic empty weight of the aircraft itself is subtracted from the maximum gross weight. This leaves you with the useful load, which is the amount that the helicopter can lift. To be accurate, the useful load is usually reduced by the weight of the pilot and the fuel weight.

The Right Calculation Makes a Difference

Once you get the useful load number, helicopter lifts are a little easier to determine. The helicopter will have a useful load but the amount left over for cargo or passengers can still vary from one helicopter to another.

US Army heavy lift helicopter (CH-54) lifting a tank during the Vietnam war, mid 1960s
US Army heavy lift helicopter (CH-54) lifting a tank during the Vietnam war, mid 1960s

In addition, helicopters cannot fly consistently at their maximum gross weight because things such as altitude and heat can reduce that number and therefore take away from the useful load number.

Helicopters often have a dilemma in that the bigger and more powerful they are, the bigger and more powerful they must be in order to fly successfully.

This doesn’t mean that only the larger, heavier helicopters are able to accommodate heavy loads because there are many helicopters of all sizes that can do this job successfully.

The Top Heavy-Lift Helicopters in the World

Aeroflot Mil V-12 (Mi-12) at Groningen Airport
Aeroflot Mil V-12 (Mi-12) at Groningen Airport

Even though helicopters vary in their size and function, there are still choppers that easily qualify for the highest load capacities when compared to other helicopters. If you’re curious about which helicopters top the list when it comes to size, load capacity, and overall power, here they are:

  • CH53E, the Super Stallion: Currently the U.S. military’s largest helicopter still being used, the Super Stallion can carry up to 14.5 tons and is therefore quite useful.
  • CH54B, the Tarhe: With an empty weight of nine tons and a MTOW of 21 tons, this helicopter played a significant role in the Vietnam War.
  • MIL MI26: The MTOW of this helicopter is a whopping 56 tons and it has been used to transport nearly everything including other aircraft, which is why it is used by the military.
  • MIL MI-6/MI-10: This helicopter has four “legs” that make up a complex loading system located below the fuselage. It has been used to transport heavy loads of all types and sizes.
  • MIL V12: With a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 100 tons, this helicopter is 121 feet long and has four very powerful engines. It is the biggest helicopter ever made.
Mil V-12
Mil V-12

A helicopter that can lift another aircraft? It might sound impossible but it isn’t. Helicopters are made to be extremely sturdy and are often specifically made for these purposes, guaranteeing that you’ll always get the results you’re looking for.

The Benefits of Construction Helicopters

Construction helicopters accommodate everything from aerial inspections to the transfer of cargo, which makes them quite valuable indeed. There are different helicopter lifts associated with these choppers. Their weight and efficiency make them even more valuable than airplanes and even ground cranes for certain projects.

CH-53K King Stallion lifts a JLTV
CH-53K King Stallion lifts a JLTV

If you hire a light utility helicopter, you can count on its lift being from 1200 to 4000 pounds or 0.6 to 2 tons total. If you want the very best, the Mil MI-26 is the biggest heavy-lift helicopter and can transport up to 44,000 pounds or 22 tons easily. When it comes to the strongest construction helicopters, the numbers look like this:

  • Airbus AS-350 B3: This is a single-engine turbine helicopter with a capacity of roughly 1.5 tons that is used for geological inspections and much more.
  • Bell 205A-1++: This helicopter can lift up to 4000 pounds or two tons and is mostly used for HVAC installations, roofing and ducting work, and the transport of cargo.
  • Bell 407HP: This helicopter has a maximum external load of 2500 pounds or 1.25 tons; it is used to pour foundations, place pipe weights, and transport various machinery.
  • Kaman K-Max K-1200: Used for utility construction and general heavy lifting, it has a lift capacity of 6000 pound or three tons.

And while we’re exploring the various uses for these helicopters, it is good to know that you can easily lease a helicopter for your construction or other project types.

Chinook lifting shipping container
Chinook lifting shipping container

The companies’ pilots are well trained and qualified to handle any project you bring to them. They offer choppers with many different helicopter lifts for your convenience.

Determining how much a certain helicopter can lift is crucial when you need one for a particular project because the last thing that you want is to lease a chopper that cannot accommodate your needs.

Helicopters are now used for a variety of tasks, including inspecting infrastructure and for placement of steel beams, making them very valuable indeed.


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