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Can Helicopters Fly Upside Down? (Or Sideways?!)

If you’ve ever seen a helicopter in action, you’ve likely been amazed at the things it can do, especially as it relates to the maneuvers it can perform and the seeming ease at which they are performed. You may have seen the Red Bull helicopter flying upside down and that made you wonder if all helicopters can fly this way.

Can Helicopters Fly Upside Down?

In general, a helicopter may be able to fly upside down for short periods of time. However, inverted flight is never recommended for long-term use. Helicopters can fly upside down for a short amount of time when they are performing a loop.

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

The things helicopters can do as opposed to airplanes are astonishing. They can takeoff and land pretty much anywhere they want. They can lift heavy loads from the most inhospitable places in the world.

Helicopters are hugely important to the United States Military and U.S. Navy. Militaries around the world have some huge helicopters at their disposal used for all kinds of missions.

Helicopters are highly versatile machines. But when it comes to upside down flight, airplanes have the better hand. Flying upside down is not something that comes easy to helicopters .

Indeed, it can be quite dangerous for most types of helicopters to fly upside down, even though you will occasionally see them flying in other directions. Helicopters are usually able to fly up, down, sideways, and backwards when they need to.

Red Bull Helicopter Flying Upside Down

Helicopters Flying Sideways

On paper, it is usually possible for a helicopter to fly upside down, but in reality this rarely, if ever, happens due to the danger involved. Of course, if you’re wondering, can helicopters fly sideways, the answer is yes, they can. They can also hover in mid-air and spin around if they wish.

If you’re wondering why helicopters need to fly sideways sometimes, the answer is easy to understand. Helicopters often have to fly in unusual or even dense areas, which they can handle nicely due to their overall size. They are used to rescue people and bring people to hospitals, so their maneuverability is important.

The military, police departments, and even farmers use helicopters to make their jobs much easier. They often need for the helicopters to fly on their sides – some for short periods of time and some for longer periods of time. This is why, in fact, many of them use helicopters at all.

In fact, maneuverability is always important, particularly when helicopters are hovering in the air or going at slow speeds. Regardless of the direction it is going, however, it is essential that the pilot knows just which speeds to use and just how to fly the copter so that the right results are experienced.

Maneuverability Is Useful

As with the many other maneuvers that a helicopter can handle, flying sideways requires both skill on the part of the pilot and knowing how fast the helicopter can go without the act being dangerous.

The torque level and the weather conditions also have to be considered before you decide to fly your helicopter sideways.

Helicopter pilots are trained to look for everything before turning the copter in a certain direction, but the basic question of can helicopters fly sideways is always answered with a resounding “yes.”

Sideways flying can be used when you have to land or take off from a confined space, in addition to other reasons.

Editorial Team

For these and many other reasons, helicopters are often preferred over airplanes for certain jobs, including landing on top of a small space – such as the top of a hospital – or taking off from an area where there is little runway space.

In short, helicopters need the ability to move in various directions because of the many jobs that are required of them. Television stations need this movement for their traffic reports, the military needs it to transport cargo and personnel, and governmental entities rely on it to put out fires.

How To Fly A Helicopter Sideways

When a helicopter needs to be flown sideways, the pilot generally tilts the copter in the right direction using the cyclic control and adds some collective; in other words, increases the total thrust coming from the main rotor blade. They also have to maintain a certain altitude or they’ll start to descend.

Of course, it’s only possible to add so much collective and, therefore, you are limited regarding how far you can actually tilt the helicopter without starting to descend. Furthermore, flying sideways is done for a variety of reasons, including both standard duties and for fun, such as flying in various air shows.

Helicopter controls layout
Editorial Team Helicopter controls layout

Momentum is also important when it comes to flying a helicopter sideways, but all of these techniques are taught to the pilot through the appropriate schools, so with practice they should be easy to maneuver. Flying sideways is also a very common direction when flying helicopters.

Flying sideways is also called flying on a roll, or rolling, and it can be executed by using the cyclic control, which varies the main rotor blade pitch with movements to the left and right. This is accomplished when the left and right motions are executed through the swashplate – a device inside of the helicopter.

So, if you’ve ever wondered, can helicopters fly sideways, you should be a little more familiar with the process by now. Yes, helicopters can fly sideways, although like flying in other directions, it is not usually done for long periods of time.

Helicopters need maneuverability because of the many tasks they perform, and whether you need them to move sideways, up, down, or even upside down, you can count on them to perform many important duties that other flying machines, that is, airplanes, simply cannot do.

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