How big is a chinook

Top 10 - The heaviest helicopters of all time

Especially when it comes to large aircraft, the superpowers competed constantly during the Cold War. As with cargo planes, the Soviet Union was ahead of the pack when it came to helicopters - thanks to the giants from Mil. A large helicopter made in the USA still managed to break through the Soviet phalanx and is at the top of our top 10 list. One looks in vain for European models among the 10 largest helicopters in the world. The leaders here are Fairey Rotodyne (takeoff weight 17,000 kg), AgustaWestland AW101 (15,600 kg) and Sud Aviation Super Frelon (13,000 kg).

10th place: Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane

Takeoff weight: 21,320 kilograms

Sikorsky CH-54 of the US Army. Photo and copyright: FR documentation

The S-64 Skycrane was the last major project of the legendary helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky. Sikorsky had retired at the end of the 1950s - but that didn't stop him from pursuing his visions. On May 9, 1962, a slim, long-legged crane helicopter finally took to the skies, which was to make a military career as the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe.

The Sikorsky S-64 was characterized by its extremely high landing gear. This enabled the cargo helicopter to pick up and transport heavy and bulky cargo using load hooks. Loading and unloading were coordinated from a rear seat in the cockpit, from which the operator could precisely control and monitor all crane functions.

The S-64 Skycrane was initially designed as a civilian transport helicopter, but was particularly popular with the US Army. It successfully used the crane helicopter, known as CH-54 Tarhe, in Vietnam, among other places. The German army also tried the model, but ultimately decided against buying it. In 1992, Sikorsky sold all program responsibility to Erickson Air-Crane.

The last Sikorsky CH-54 were retired from the US Army in 1995. However, some of them experienced their second spring with Erickson. Since then, they have been used successfully as civil cargo helicopters on large construction sites and oil fields, but also to fight forest fires.

Technical specifications:
Crew: 2 pilots / 1 operator
Propulsion: 2 Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-4A turbine engines
Length: 21.20 m
Main rotor diameter: 21.95 m
Payload: 9072 kg
Empty weight: 8981 kg
maximum take-off weight: 21320 kg
Top speed: 203 km / h
Range: 370 km

9th place: Boeing CH-47F Chinook

Takeoff weight: 22680 kilograms

The US Army has ordered 464 CH-47Fs. These include 202 newly built units and 262 converted CH-47Ds (Photo: Boeing).

Also in the late 1950s, Boeing-Vertol began developing the CH-47 as a transport helicopter for the US Army. It was supposed to replace the Sikorsky CH-37 Mojave. The two main rotors rotating in opposite directions at the front and rear make the "Chinook" unmistakable in its appearance. This arrangement of the rotors, which Boeing-Vertol had already successfully used in the previous model CH-46, also makes a tail rotor to stabilize the flight position superfluous. As one of the first large US helicopters, the Chinook also received power shaft engines.

The first prototype of the CH-47 with the designation YHC-1A flew on September 21, 1961. A little later it became the most important transport helicopter of the US Army and has been in all theaters of war since the Vietnam War. As the backbone of the military transport helicopter fleet, it was partially replaced by the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk at the end of the 1970s, but it also underwent extensive modernization measures during this period. The armies of 20 nations worldwide, including eight NATO countries, currently rely on the services of the Chinook, which Boeing is still building to this day. The latest version operates under the name H-47 Chinook and is currently in competition in Germany against the Sikorsky CH-53K for the successor to the aging CH-53G. Boeing-Vertol praises its helicopter as the "most modern, up-to-date and affordable heavy transport helicopter in the world."

Technical specifications:
Length: 30.1 m
Main rotor diameter: 18.3 m each
Payload: 12,700 kg cargo or 55 soldiers
Empty weight: 10185 kg
maximum take-off weight: 22680 kg
Top speed: 315 km / h, range: 741 km

8th place: Kamow Ka-22

Takeoff weight: 32,000 kilograms

Only four of the Kamow Ka-22s were built. Photo and copyright: FR documentation

The Ka-22 was supposed to combine the advantages of a helicopter with the cruising speed and payload of a fixed-wing aircraft. For this purpose, Kamow - inspired by the British Fairey Rotodyne - developed a special drive concept. Two turbines drove the two rotors mounted on the left and right on the wings during take-off and landing. Adjustable clutches ensured that the same turbines fired two propellers in forward flight. In this way, the Kamow Ka-22 reached a significantly higher cruising speed than conventional helicopters.

Indeed, the Ka-22's flight performance was promising. After the first flight on August 15, 1959, the model set several world records for rotary wing aircraft. It reached a top speed of 356 km / h and was able to transport 16,500 kilograms of payload.

But the complicated drive concept took its toll. Of four prototypes built, two were lost in flight tests. Finally, the Soviet Union stopped the project in 1964. The two remaining Kamow Ka-22s fell to the scrap press.

Technical specifications:
Length: 27 m
Main rotor diameter: each 20 m
Payload: 16 500 kg
Empty weight: 31000 kg
maximum take-off weight: 32000 kg
Top speed: 350 km / h
Range: 450 km

7th place: Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion

Takeoff weight: 33,300 kilograms

The CH-53E Super Stallion is essential for the US Marine Corps. Photo and Copyright: US Navy

When the American marines have to transport something large and heavy, the “Big Iron” has to be dealt with. 14.5 tons can be hung under the Sikorsky CH-53E, be it a vehicle, an M777 howitzer or a crash-landed helicopter.

The CH-53E Super Stallion is a further development of the Sikorsky CH-53. Compared to the original version, it received a third engine and a seventh blade in the main rotor so that it could handle the required loads. The first flight took place on March 1, 1974. Since then, Sikorsky has built 234 copies of the CH-53E. About 150 of them are still in service with the US Marines. You will have to hold out a little longer, as the development of the successor model CH-53K King Stallion has been delayed. Measures to extend the service life are therefore probably necessary in order to keep the reliable oldie in service until 2027.

In the more recent past, the Marines' CH-53E have been in demand for various missions in Afghanistan, but have also been used in Libya and for earthquake relief in the Philippines. Troop and load transport make up almost the same proportion today, but the CH-53E Super Stallions are also parked for special tasks such as fire fighting in California if necessary.

Technical specifications:
Length: 30.2 m
Main rotor diameter: 24 m
Payload: 13600 kg (external up to 14500 kg)
Empty weight: 15071 kg
maximum take-off weight: 33300 kg
Top speed: 315 km / h
Range: 1000 km

6th place: Sikorsky CH-53K

Takeoff weight: 38400 kilograms

The King has landed: The first CH-53K was handed over to the US Marine Corps by Sikorsky on May 16, 2018 (Photo: USMC)

The CH-53K King Stallion marks the pinnacle of development of the CH-53, which has been in production since the 1960s. It is supposed to replace the CH-53E in the US Marines. The USA has ordered 200 machines from Sikorsky for this purpose. With a takeoff mass of 38,400 kilograms, it will also be the heaviest helicopter in the service of the US armed forces. However, the program has been delayed several times since development began in 2006. The first flight of the CH-53K took place on October 27, 2015. The Marines received their first emergency machine in May 2018.

The Sikorsky CH-53K is largely a completely new design. The main features compared to previous CH-53 versions are a glass cockpit, rotor blades made of composite materials, a widened cargo hold and new GE38 engines from GE Aviation. Three of these militarily designated T408 turbines give the CH-53K a total output of 16,800 kW. That provides 20 knots more top speed. The cell of the CH-53K has grown by 15 percent compared to the previous generations. The focus on lightweight construction materials and the composite rotor blades also give the "King Stallion" improved flight characteristics under extreme conditions.

In addition to the US Marines, Israel and Germany are also interested in buying the CH-53K. In Germany, the “King Stallion” is competing against Boeing's H-47.

Technical specifications:
Length: 30.2 m
Main rotor diameter: 24 m
Payload: 15,900 kg
maximum take-off weight: 38400 kg
Cruising speed: 315 km / h

5th place: Mil Mi-6

Takeoff weight: 42,500 kilograms

The Mil Mi-6 could transport heavy loads like a Vostok spaceship here. Photo and copyright: FR documentation

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Mil Mi-6 made a name for itself as the largest helicopter in the world. The maiden flight took place on June 5, 1957. More than 900 helicopters were built and exported to numerous countries. The Mi-6 was not only in service with the Red Army, but also in Bulgaria, Poland, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Peru, Syria and Vietnam, among others.

With its length of almost 42 meters, the Mi-6 literally overshadowed all previous helicopters when it appeared. In addition to its size, the 7.5 meter long stub wings are particularly noticeable on the Mi-6. They were responsible for up to 20 percent of the total lift in forward flight. At the same time, the giant helicopter also advanced to become the first turbine-powered helicopter in the USSR: Fired by two 8090 kW Solowjow D-25W shaft turbines, the Mi-6 flew up to 300 km / h and was able to climb to a summit height of 4,500 meters.

During flight testing, Mil set a number of world records with the Mi-6. In 1962, for example, it lifted a payload of 20117 kg to a height of 2000 meters. With this, the Mi-6 would have been theoretically able to transport the largest US helicopter at the time, the Sikorsky S-64. However, the external payload that was transported by load hook was limited to “only” 9000 kg.

The Soviet Mi-6 experienced their most delicate missions in April 1986 during the Chernobyl reactor disaster. There they supported the work of the so-called liquidators in fighting the fire in the ruptured reactor block 4 from the air.

Technical specifications:
Length: 33.18 m
Main rotor diameter: 35 m
Payload: 12000 kg or 70 paratroopers
Empty weight: 27240 kg
maximum take-off weight: 42,500 kg
Top speed: 300 km / h
Range: 620 km

4th place: Mil Mi-10

Takeoff weight: 43700 kilograms

The Mil Mi-10 crane helicopter in action. Photo and copyright: FR documentation

The Mi-10 was essentially a further development of the Mi-6, with a slim fuselage and extremely long-legged landing gear. This design should enable the Mi-10 to transport particularly bulky and large external loads. For example, the giant helicopter, known by NATO as the “rake”, was able to move buses or containers from A to B without any problems. The first Mi-10 took off on its maiden flight on June 15, 1960.

In 1966 Mil presented the modified version Mi-10K in Moscow. The “K” in the name stood for “korotkonogii”, which means “short-legged” in German. This variant with a shortened landing gear was designed as a crane helicopter and had an additional cockpit under the fuselage. From there, a load master checked the load pick-up. In this way, the Mi-10K was able to raise and lower cargo very precisely.

The Mi-10 set a total of seven world records, but only 55 copies were built. The Mi-10 performed loyally, especially on large construction projects in the more remote regions of the Soviet Union, but could also be seen occasionally on missions in friendly foreign countries.

Technical specifications:
Length: 32.86 m
Main rotor diameter: 35 m
Payload: 15000 kg
Empty weight: 27100 kg
maximum take-off weight: 43700 kg
Top speed: 335 km / h
Range: 430 km

3rd place: Boeing XCH-62A

Takeoff weight: 53524 kilograms

The Boeing YCH-62A project was put on hold before the maiden flight. Photo and copyright: FR documentation

Strictly speaking, the Boeing XCH-62A shouldn't even appear in this hit list of the heaviest helicopters, because it has never flown. All performance values ​​for the largest helicopter ever built in the USA are pure theory. So that the ambitious project is not completely forgotten, it still made it into our Top 10. Because the XCH-62A was put on hold shortly before the maiden flight was not primarily due to technical reasons.

In view of the oversized Mil’s Soviet helicopters, the US military felt the need to climb into the top league with a helicopter type at the end of the 1960s. As a result of these considerations, Boeing-Vertol presented its XCH-62 design in 1971. The XCH-62 was designed as a crane helicopter. Three Allison T701 turbines were provided for the drive. The rotor diameter should be 28 meters, the length of the fuselage almost 27 meters. The long, widely spaced landing gear should enable the XCH-62, similar to the Soviet Mi-10, to carry armored vehicles and other heavy loads under the fuselage. The cabin above was designed for the transport of troops.

In parallel to the heavy lift helicopter designed for the military, Boeing-Vertol was also considering a civilian variant, the Model 301. In 1975 the first prototype of the XCH-62 was about to be completed. However, there were major problems with the bevel gear teeth in the transmission. Boeing-Vertol worked flat out on a solution and finally found it, but had to take note in August 1975 that the US Congress stopped financing the project. This made the XCH-62 a case for the history books even before its maiden flight.

The almost finished XCH-62 prototype has now found shelter in the US Army Aviation Museum in Fort Rucker, Alabama. In the mid-1980s, NASA considered reactivating the XCH-62 for flight tests. However, this undertaking also ultimately failed due to a lack of financial resources. In 2005, the largest helicopter of the non-Soviet design ended up in the junkyard without a sound.

Technical specifications:
Length: 26.59 m
Main rotor diameter: 28.04 m each
Empty weight: 27025 kg
maximum take-off weight: 53524 kg
Top speed: 269 km / h
Operational radius: 278 km

2nd place: Mil Mi-26

Takeoff weight: 56,000 kilograms

Patrick Zwerger
A Mil Mi-26 from the Belarusian Ministry of Disaster Control

It is the most powerful and largest helicopter ever to go into series production. With a launch mass of 56 tons and a payload of 20 tons, the Mil Mi-26 trumps all its competitors - and easily outperforms its direct predecessor, the Mi-6. Their construction proved to be out of date for the growing demands of the Soviet army at the beginning of the 1970s. That is why the Kremlin commissioned the Mil design bureau to develop a more powerful successor. This was finally given the designation Mi-26 and took off on December 14, 1977 for its first flight.

The dimensions of the Mi-26 are colossal in many ways. Its cargo space is larger than that of an Antonov An-12 and can easily accommodate 90 soldiers, 60 patient stretchers or two airborne tanks. The diameter of the eight-blade rotor is 32 meters, which roughly corresponds to the length of the fuselage of an Airbus A319. The Mi-26 also holds a number of world records to this day. In 1982 she succeeded in lifting a load of 56,769 kilograms to a height of 2000 meters.

Due to its unique properties, the Mi-26 is still in demand worldwide as a heavy lift helicopter. So far, 276 copies have left the production halls, many older models are currently being modernized. At the same time, series production continues, albeit at a very manageable pace. Customers are the Russian military and the armies of numerous other nations, but also civil institutions such as the UN and Russian civil protection.

Since the Mi-26 is also able to transport heavy external loads, it is regularly used for special missions. This includes the erection of power line and transmitter masts, earthquake and forest fire operations. The Mi-26s also transport complete aircraft, other helicopters or boats, such as the Swiss sailing yacht Alinghi.

Technical specifications:
Hull length: 33.73 m
Main rotor diameter: 32.00 m
Payload: 20,000 kg cargo or 90 soldiers
Empty weight: 28200 kg
maximum take-off weight: 56000 kg
Top speed: 295 km / h
Range: 1920 km

1st place: Mil W-12

Takeoff weight: 105,000 kilograms

Giant without example: the Mil W-12 in flight. Photo and copyright: FR documentation

Anyone who thinks that the Mi-26 marks the end of the flagpole when it comes to the world's heaviest helicopters has probably never been to the Russian town of Monino. In the aviation museum there, less than 50 kilometers east of Moscow, there is a much larger colossus enthroned. And anyone who has ever faced the Mil W-12 exhibited there in person knows that the term “colossus” is not an exaggeration.

The history of the W-12 (W for "Wertoljot", in English "helicopter") begins at the end of the 1950s. At the time, the Mil design office was working on studies for a new type of giant helicopter with a payload of 20 to 25 tons. In 1959 the Kremlin had officially commissioned a corresponding feasibility study - a tremendous challenge for the Mil engineers. Mil worked on the project for almost ten years until the first W-12 finally took off on July 10, 1968.

In order to meet the officially required performance parameters, the engineers installed two complete main drive systems of the Mi-6. With a maximum take-off mass of 105 tons, the W-12 far surpassed the Mi-26, which was developed later. With an unladen weight of over 69 tons, it was also more than twice as heavy.

Despite successful attempts, many records and official flight demonstrations also in Western Europe, however, there was no series production. Planned further developments were also not implemented. Depending on the source, only two or three W-12s left the production halls. As mentioned, one of them is in Monino, and a second is also not far from Moscow on the site of the Mikhail Leontjewitsch-Mil helicopter factory in Lyubertsy-Panki. Rumors have it that a third prototype crashed in 1969. However, there is no official information on this.

Technical specifications:
Length: 37 m
Main rotor diameter: each 35 m
Payload: up to 40,000 kg freight or 196 passengers (normally 20,000 kg)
Empty weight: 69100 kg
maximum take-off weight: 105,000 kg
Top speed: 260 km / h
Range: 500 km