Whether you are buying a bicycle, a motorbike, an automobile, a fixed-wing plane or a helicopter, there is a good chance that you will have some idea of what you are looking for, at least in terms of function if not brand.
While the market for helicopters is relatively small, it’s a passion of ours, and so we have compiled a list of what we believe are the world’s best helicopters, each of which has been chosen for a different reason.
- The most expensive helicopter
- The most comfortable helicopter
- The fastest ever helicopter
- The fastest civilian helicopter
- The best police helicopter
- The best military helicopter
The World’s Most Expensive Helicopters
The honors go to the AgustaWestland AW101 VVIP that currently has a price tag of around $21 million. With a huge interior that resembles a millionaires’ private jet featuring a larger-than-life helicopter cabin, this beauty can travel at a top speed of 309 km/h (192 mph).
Several other AgustaWestland helicopters slot into the bracket of most expensive, including the AW 139 that features leather seats and other top quality materials, and retails around $14.5 million. At the relative bottom-of-the AW range, the AW109 Grand Versace VIP comes with a $6.3 million price tag, while the much cheaper 119 Ke Koala costs just $1.8 million to $3 million (depending on finishes), and is popular with corporates and with law enforcement.
There are a number of other AgustaWestland models to choose from, some of which come close in speed to the fastest helicopters we feature below. For instance the AW189 is pretty huge, and it boasts a maximum range of 1,200 km with a maximum speed of 313 km/h (about 194 mph).
The World’s Most Comfortable Helicopters
Our vote here goes to one of Airbus Helicopters’ machines, the ECO-Star (EC-130). It is safe and incredibly comfortable, making it a leading choice for tourism operations. For example, cabins are larger than most and wraparound windows guarantee passengers amazing views and visibility.
Additionally, it features a “fan in fin” tail section that is considerably quieter and a lot more efficient than other helicopters, even those made by Airbus. It uses about 25 percent less engine power than other helicopters and the sophisticated fuel control system optimizes speed and ensures the whole operation is a lot quieter.
The World’s Fastest Helicopter
The fastest helicopter ever built was developed by Eurocopter (Now Airbus Helicopters) as an experiment to see how fast and far they could make a helicopter fly. On June 7, 2013 the Eurocopter3 X achieved the incredible speed of 293 mph (472 km/h or 255 knots) in level flight. While the speed is not an official one, it was quite an achievement.
Instead of conventional tail rotors that counter the effect of torque, the designers fitted a tractor propeller to short-span wings. These had a different pitch that was designed to counter the torque effect of the primary rotor.
The next fastest helicopter is the experimental high-speed, award-winning Sikorsky X2 that reached a maximum speed of 287.5 mph (460 km/h or 250 knots), but with excessive vibration.
The World’s Fastest Civilian Helicopters
There are a couple of civilian helicopters that can reach a speed of 201 mph (or 324 km/h), the Airbus H155 and H225. The H155 also has an awesome faster-than-fast cruise speed of 278 km/h at a soaring altitude of 6,000 ft. It’s one of the best helicopters for corporate and VIP transportation as well as for emergency medical services (EMS), search and rescue (SAR), and even inter-rig shuttles and long-haul offshore transit operations.
The Airbus H225 Super Puma, which can transport as many as 24 people, is known to be a super state-of-the-art aircraft that is robust and can endure long distance runs of more than five-and-a-half hours.
The World’s Best Police Helicopters
Since Airbus Helicopters supplies more than 50 local, state and federal government agencies in the US, we’ve pinpointed a couple of their helicopters as the world’s best police helicopters.
The American-manufactured AS350 AStar is a highly maneuverable light single-engine helicopter with a very fast cruise speed of more than 130 knots. It features an open cabin design and a wide field of view, which is exactly what the cops need. It has the capacity to carry five or six passengers with the pilot.
Their light twin-engine AS355 has the same capacity, but is a little slower, reaching a maximum cruise speed of 120 knots.
The World’s Best Military Helicopters
The Boeing AH-64 Apache is often cited as the leading military and attack helicopter in the world. A twin-engine machine that accommodates just two people, features a sensor suite mounted on the nose that is used for its night vision system and target acquisition. It is armed with an M230 chain gun carried under the forward fuselage and can fire air-to-ground missiles in a “fire and forget” mode. It is also fitted with a 30 mm cannon.
This military helicopter has been in use in the US since 2011, and has been exported to various countries including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Taiwan.
Other manufacturers that have produced top military helicopters include Sikorsky, Bell, Northrop Grumman and Hughes.