How much weight a helicopter can lift primarily depends on what type of helicopter is doing the lifting. While a light utility helicopter can lift anywhere between 1,200 to 4,000 pounds, a helicopter that is specially designed to lift heavy objects (aka heavy-lift helicopters) like the Mil M-26 can lift as much as 44,000 pounds.

Heavy-lift helicopters are used by both military and civilian operators. In the civilian world, helicopters designed for lifting are particularly popular in construction and are used for everything from aerial inspections to the transfer of cargo. In the military, helicopters are used to carry heavy loads, including light vehicles, large groups of troops, and cargo in support of military operations.

5 Civilian & Military Heavy-Lift Helicopters

Mil Mi-26

The Mil Mi-26 is a Russian heavy-lift cargo helicopter that takes the title of the largest and most powerful helicopter to have ever gone into production. This beast of a machine is used in both military and civilian roles.

Introduced in 1983, the Mi-26 is still in service and plays an important role in the Russian Air Force to move military equipment, including amphibious armored personnel carriers, and mobile ballistic missiles.

The Mil Mi-26 can lift 44,000 pounds.

The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters. However, its original iteration only had a 10,000-pound payload, which was deemed too low to use for transport use. The CH-47D, though, which uses more powerful engines, is capable of lifting up to 26,000 pounds.

The CH-47D is the U.S. Army’s primary heavy troop and supply transport aircraft.

Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion

The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion is a heavy-lift helicopter operated by the United States Marine Corps.

What makes the CH-53E Super Stallion so special is its combination of power and compactness. This makes it deployable on amphibious assault ships, while also having the armament, speed, and agility to qualify as much more than merely a heavy-lift helicopter.

The CH-53E Super Stallion is capable of lifting up to 36,000 pounds.

Kaman K-Max K-1200

When it comes to construction helicopters that are used by civilian operators, the Kaman K-Max K-1200 is the best there is.

The K-1200 has a lift capacity of 6,000 pounds, making it popular in pipeline and power line construction and repair, cell tower placement, natural gas line construction, specialized rigging, and material and equipment transport and placement.

Bell 205A1++

The Bell 205A1++ is the helicopter of choice for civil, forestry, and external lift, particularly in high-altitude areas, high temperatures areas, and otherwise challenging, tempestuous environments.

The Bell 205A-1++ is a construction helicopter that can lift 4,000 pounds.