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Can Helicopters Do Aerobatics Such As Loops And Barrel Rolls?

Most people have heard of or seen air shows where various airplanes show off their skills and perform different maneuvers, but is it possible for helicopters to do the same thing? Helicopters are amazing in their maneuverability, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can do tricks the same way some airplanes can.

Can Helicopters Do Aerobatics?

A helicopter’s ability to perform different aerobatic movements depends mostly on the type of helicopter flown and the tricks desired. Learning to fly helicopters should be mastered first before trying these tricks, and it also depends on the design of the helicopter you are piloting.

Can Helicopters Do Loops?

For those who have wondered, can helicopters do loops? the answer is “yes and no.” Most full-sized helicopters cannot do loops due to their size and weight, but many model helicopters can. However, even model helicopters would have to meet certain requirements beforehand.

Sikorsky S70 helicopter doing a loop
Editorial Team Sikorsky S70 helicopter doing a loop

This usually means a strong and sturdy airframe, great power-to-weight ratios, a tail rotor head that is symmetric, a powertrain that won’t break when giving it full collective and full cyclic at the same time, and a rotor head with an intense cyclic pitch range.

In other words, a helicopter has to be built to take the kind of abuse often heaped on it when loops are desired. Otherwise, it would likely cause damage to the airframe or other parts of the helicopter.

Backflips and More

Can helicopters do backflips? Once again, it depends on the type of copter you’re talking about. Some helicopters that can do backflips successfully include the Westland Lynx and the MBB BO-105. They can backflip from a hovering position because they have rigid or semi-rigid main rotor systems.

MBB BO 105
Editorial Team Red Bull MBB BO 105

Once you establish positive G on the rotor blades while the maneuver is going on, they will function properly and therefore you’ll be able to handle backflips.

Once again, there aren’t many helicopters that can perform backflips easily and without causing harm to the copter, but it isn’t an impossible task.

Other Types of Flips

Along the same lines, if you’ve asked yourself, can helicopters do flips? the answer is usually the same. There are many different types of flips, including backflips, aileron flips, and going from an inverted position to being right-side up and vice versa. Again, the helicopter has to be the right design.

Eurocopter Tiger doing a Backflip

Certain suggestions do make doing backflips and regular flips a little easier. For instance, giving the copter a boost of collective to start it moving upwards and using a short burst collective so that the inverted helicopter can maintain proper height are always recommended.

There are also different suggestions for other types of flips, including tiny loops, which are called elevator flips; and a front flip, which is when the nose drops at the start of the maneuver.

Once again, learning the basics of flying a helicopter needs to be done first before any special aerobatics are attempted.

Barrel Rolls

If you’re wondering, can helicopters do a barrel roll?, once again, the answer shouldn’t surprise you. Performing a barrel roll isn’t the problem; recovering from the activity often is, especially if the trick was executed improperly.

Westland Lynx performing a loop
Editorial Team Westland Lynx performing a loop

With barrel rolls, most helicopters think they are simply participating in level flight. This is because barrel rolls and level flight both involve +1 G throughout the maneuver. Recovering from a barrel roll is a bit more complicated, however, which is why so many pilots avoid it.

If a helicopter has a semi-rigid rotor system, it won’t be able to handle negative G maneuvers because this will likely result in a crash. However, the BK117 and the BO105 have rigid rotor systems and therefore can accommodate numerous aerobatic maneuvers and tricks.

Aerobatics Requirements

Once again, if you have the right type of helicopter, aerobatics are much less complicated. In addition, not everyone can be certified by the FAA to be an aerobatics helicopter pilot. Chuck Aaron, for example, is one of only four pilots to enjoy this certification.

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Aaron has been retired since 2015, but his experience includes maneuvers such as the vertical climb, roll, flip, Cuban 8, Split S, and the Immelman, as well as a maneuver he designed and perfected himself – the “Chuckcevac.”

He performed most of his routines in an MBB Bo 105, but he made modifications that allowed it to do things that up until then hadn’t been done by a helicopter.

Since 2019, Aaron has been involved in his own helicopter aerobatics flight school at Concord Regional Airport in North Carolina.

As you can see, aerobatics maneuvers by a helicopter are easier when the helicopter is designed to withstand these acts and the pilot has the experience to make them happen. Much like aerobatic airplanes, aerobatic helicopters can be fun to watch while performing these maneuvers.

Fortunately, as long as the aircraft is designed properly and the pilot knows what they’re doing, it is simple to complete these maneuvers in a safe and proper manner.

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