Most helicopters have an average speed of approximately 140 knots or 160mph or 260 km/h, though how fast a helicopter flies will vary depending on its model, equipment, purpose, and weight load – i.e. the more weight a helicopter carries, the slower it will inevitably fly.
So while most helicopters have an average speed of approximately 140 knots or 160mph or 260 km/h, the average speed of a civilian helicopter is around 120mph or 195 km/h, and the average speed of military helicopters is 160mph or 260 km/h, with the fastest military helicopters being able to fly at speeds higher than 248mph or 400 km/h
While most of the world’s fastest types of helicopters are military or military transport helicopters, such as the CH-47F Chinook, which can cruise at 291 km/h (181mph), some civilian and medical choppers also have impressive speeds, such as the Leonardo AW139, which has an average cruise speed of 289 km/h (180 mph).
Table of Contents
- 1 Civilian Helicopters Speeds
- 2 Military Helicopters Speeds
- 3 Police and Medical Helicopters Speeds
- 4 How Long it Takes a Helicopter to Fly 100 Miles
- 5 5 Fastest Civilian Helicopters in the World
- 6 5 Fastest Police and Military Helicopters in the World
- 7 Do Helicopters or Planes Fly Faster?
Civilian Helicopters Speeds
Civilian helicopters are comparatively the slowest, as civilians have the lowest speed requirements.
The average speed of a civilian helicopter is around 120mph or 195 km/h. The world’s fastest civilian helicopters can fly at a speed of 190mph or 310km/h.
A civilian helicopter’s speed mostly depends on its use. Civilian cargo and personal transport helicopters are the slowest, as they can carry a lot of weight and are not designed to fly fast in the first place.
Another factor that influences civilian helicopter speed is the number of engines. Twin-engine helicopters are typically faster than single-engine ones.
Military Helicopters Speeds
Military helicopters are faster than civilian helicopters, since military choppers need to fly faster for military and utility purposes.
Military helicopters use technologies like VTOL and tandem rotors to fly faster; these technologies aren’t used for civilian choppers.
Military utility helicopters are faster than strictly military choppers, but the exact speed of the fastest military helicopters remains undisclosed to the public for security reasons.
We can still estimate that most military choppers fly at an average speed of 160mph or 260 km/h, and the fastest military helicopters could probably fly at speeds higher than 248mph or 400km/h.
Police and Medical Helicopters Speeds
Police and medical helicopters are normally faster than civilian choppers, but slower than military ones.
The speed of a medical helicopter depends on its model, but on average a medical helicopter will fly at 120mph or 195km/h.
Police helicopters have an average cruise speed of 155mph or 250km/h.
How Long it Takes a Helicopter to Fly 100 Miles
Helicopters are capable of flying more than 100 mph, so all helicopters can fly 100 miles in under an hour, though some models are more comfortable flying at higher speeds, so will be able to fly 100 miles in as little as 20 minutes.
5 Fastest Civilian Helicopters in the World
1. Airbus H160
The Airbus H160 is a luxury aircraft used by members of the world’s business and political elite for personal transport.
The latest model is the ACH160, and this chopper is considered the world’s most technologically sophisticated private helicopter. The Airbus H160 has a cruise speed of 178mph or 278km/h.
2. Leonardo AW109 GrandNew
The Leonardo AW109 GrandNew is an improved version of the previously successful A109 series chopper. It’s a modern multi-purpose helicopter that’s mostly used for personal transport or corporate purposes.
It’s considered one of the world’s fastest civilian helicopters, since it has an average cruise speed of 180mph or 289km/h.
3. Russian Helicopters KA-62
The Ka-62 is another multi-purpose helicopter.
This helicopter was built for transporting cargo, personnel, conducting search and rescue operations and transporting corporate and political leaders.
It has an average cruise speed of 181mph or 290km/h, and a maximum speed of 193mph or 310km/h.
4. Leonardo AW139
Another one of Leonardo’s choppers, the AW139 is the world’s most popular twin-engine helicopter, and it’s also one of the best equipped with full all-weather IFR facilities.
It’s used globally for offshore transportation, law enforcement and many other purposes.
The Leonardo AW139 has an average cruise speed of 190mph or 306km/h with a maximum speed of 193mph or 310km/h.
5. Sikorsky X2
The Sikorsky X2 is an experimental aircraft.
It’s a high-speed compound helicopter that uses coaxial rotors, which is a revolutionary step in helicopter design, breaking previous speed conventions.
The X2’s twin rotors can theoretically thrust the aircraft to speeds of 299mph or 481 km/h and higher, but it’s still experimental.
5 Fastest Police and Military Helicopters in the World
1. Leonardo AW149M
Built from the success of its civilian cousin, the Leonardo AW 149M is a military and transport chopper that can transport up to 16 soldiers at a time.
It’s also deployed for transport purposes by the military, since it has an impressive average speed for its size, 178mph or 287km/h.
2. Boeing CH-47F ‘Chinook’
The Boeing CH-47F is internationally recognized for its unique design and multiple uses.
This chopper has been used for everything from transporting troops, delivering cargo, and evacuating wounded troops on the battlefield.
It has an average cruise speed of 181mph or 291km/h.
3. Sikorsky S70i ‘Blackhawk
The S70i Sikorsky Blackhawk is a military version of the more common civilian UH-60 Blackhawk.
It’s one of the world’s most-used military helicopters because of its impressive speed.
The S70i can cruise at an average speed of 184mph or 296km/h.
The NH90 was a joint project among Airbus and Leonardo & Fokker, intended to produce a multi-role medium-lift military helicopter that could be used by NATO’s armed forces.
Currently, this chopper is used by the armed forces of 13 countries, either for naval or tactical transport purposes.
The NH90 has a cruise speed of 186mph or 300km/h.
5. Westland Helicopters Lynx
The Westland Lynx was developed in Britain as a twin-engine multi-purpose helicopter for the military.
It’s mostly used in the capacities of naval transport or land vehicle transport, but some variants are also employed in gunship roles.
This chopper holds the record for being the world’s fastest with an average speed of 249mph or 400km/h and a maximum speed of 257mph or 413km/h.
Do Helicopters or Planes Fly Faster?
Helicopters always fly slower than planes due to the difference in how the two aircraft work.
The aerodynamics of helicopters, which involve vertical lift-off, can’t work faster than a jet’s propulsion system.
The world’s fastest helicopters can’t fly faster than 250mph or 400km/h while popular airplanes like the Boeing-747 fly at an average speed of 570mph or 917km/h, a big difference.
Wrapping things up, while helicopters aren’t the fastest aircraft in the world, they can fly fast at speeds up to 250mph or 400km/h and offer several unique benefits compared to other types of aircraft.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.