A Quick Comparison of Helicopter Lift


By Jed

TD recently did his article on the future of the rotary-wing fleet.

We have had a few pre-SDSR and post-SDSR conversations about the future of the rotary fleet in the comments section of various articles.

Based on some of these comments I thought it might just be interesting to do a very quick comparison of statistics for some of the aircraft types discussed, either from the manufacturer’s sites or Wikipedia.

As such some of this data is “approximate” for example Wikipedia seems to use the maximum take-off or emergency power rating for engines. That for the Merlin and Chinook are definitely maximum continuous rating, not so sure about the others.

As you can see data points for various aircraft are empty because my quick Saturday afternoon search could not find the information – if you have it, or know a source, please let us know in the comments and we can amend the table

 AW139MPumaAW149CougarUH60LEC725 CaracalNH90MerlinChinook (CH47F)
Length (Nose to tail rotor)13.97 14.615.5315.4316.7916.1319.5315.9
Length (Rotors Turning)16.6618.1517.57 19.7619.519.5622.8530.18
Length (Folded)         
Width2.26 2.55 2.36 2  
Width (Rotors Turning)         
Width (Folded)         
Main Rotor Diameter13.81514.815.616.3616.216.218.618.29
Total Power (SHP)306231503960317828203740446061237058
Weight Empty 3536 435048195330640010500 
Max Takeoff Weight68007000860090001060011000106001560022680
Max Payload (Internal)2570    56704200600010886
Max Payload (External)         
Max Passenger (Fully Equipped)101612201129202733
Max Passenger (Lightly Equipped)14 26201116204055
Cabin Length  3  5.69 6.59.29
Cabin Width  2.26  1.8 2.492.29
Rear Ramp (H x W)       1.95 x 2.25 
Large side door     1.8 x 1.45 1.8 x 1.55 

Of course, nothing is ever simple, and a lot of the conversations have been based around troop lift capacity. As Gabriele pointed out, the AW101 brochure (PDF) is very open about the seating arrangements that are possible and the standard arrangement in ‘crash worthy’ troop seats of 27 men, includes seats arrayed so that the starboard side trooping door is unusable. Not a problem, in my opinion, the Chinook for example does not have side doors either. On the other hand, I can’t find anything that the figure of 33 for the Chinook suggests this is in crashworthy seating, but extrapolation would suggest it is.

For the Eurocopter EC725 Caracal, the available PDF is clear that 29 troops can be seated in the cabin, but that drops to 20 with wall mounted crashworthy seats, and if you want to use the large front opening windows for side gunners, that drops to 16. Similarly, the workhorse of the US Army can seat 14, but more usual is a standard US Army squad of 11, plus two side window gunners.

At the lower end, the AW literature for the AW139M and AW149 talks about Fully Equipped (FE) troops, with support weapons (GPMG’s and LAWS?) or Lightly Equipped (LE) which I take as personal weapons and ‘fighting order’. Our venerable Puma’s seat 16, but I don’t think these are in crashworthy seats anyway, and I have not looked up figures for the refitted Pumas but stuck with HC1.

I could not find any figures at all ref the seating details for the Mil Mi-17-1V, which fits squarely between the NH90 and the EH101 based on empty weight, it just says “30 troops” and I have the feeling that’s not in crashworthy seating.

So, there you are team, so figures to play with when disputing what our machines can manage to do.

Oh, and just in case, although I am sure you would never forget, just because a brochure gives a maximum number (for example the 40 you can cram into a Merlin) – that won’t be on a 35 deg C “hot” day at high altitude in Afghanistan.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments