I enjoy watching RC helicopter stunts like these. Many RC pilots are very talented, executing barrel rolls and other inversions.

How come we don't see these kind of displays at airshows?

  • $\begingroup$ After watching the video from ratchet freak's answer, I (personally) think that airplanes doing aerobatics are way more "majestic looking" than a helo. But it is interesting that there aren't more aerobatic helo displays. $\endgroup$
    – Keegan
    Feb 1, 2015 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ You may want to take a look at the Royal Navy's Black Cats. $\endgroup$ May 29, 2021 at 16:15

4 Answers 4


First off: I'm not a pilot.

I believe there are two additional issues here:

  • There is no pilot in the RC helicopter. The forces exerted in some of those maneuvers look pretty extreme, I highly doubt even the most well-trained aerobatics pilot/astronaut/fighter jock would be conscious longer than about 2 minutes into the video you posted. I'm not even sure if they would be able to survive that.

  • Scale. All sorts of weird things happen when you scale complex systems up or down. (A famous example is the square-cube law: when you scale a structure up linearly, it's area scales as a square, and its volume (and thus weight) scales as a cube. So, an ant that is 100 times bigger will have feet that are 10000 times bigger but will have to support a weight that is 1000000 times bigger.) For example, the airframe of the RC helicopter is much stronger in relation to its size than it is on a real helicopter. Also, RC models (not just helicopters) are typically ridiculously overmotorized compared to their real-life counterparts.

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    $\begingroup$ And now you know why icefoxes are bigger than desert foxes ;-) $\endgroup$ Jan 30, 2015 at 18:14

There just aren't many helicopter aerobatic pilots around.

There is one I know of: Chuck Aaron he can do the typical maneuvers in a specially modified helicopter.

  • $\begingroup$ i really enjoyed watching that. thanks. is that rocket assist at 2:00? $\endgroup$
    – Erich
    Jan 30, 2015 at 1:42
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    $\begingroup$ @erich no just standard sky writer smoke $\endgroup$ Jan 30, 2015 at 1:45
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    $\begingroup$ another video i saw said he was the only qualified/faa-authorized pilot to do helicopter aerobatics. what ridiculous process is there to get qualified? who qualified chuck aaron? $\endgroup$
    – Erich
    Jan 30, 2015 at 2:46
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    $\begingroup$ Also compounded by the fact that most helicopters are not capable of pulling of those manoeuvres. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Jan 30, 2015 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ Most of those maneuvers look like they were done so high that they may not be easily visible from the ground at an airshow, so it might not be the most entertaining to watch. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Feb 7, 2015 at 4:12

First off, the reasons you don't see real helicopters performing literally like that model are that it's impossible to get anything like that power-to-weight ratio on a full-size machine and also because the pilot would black out from the ridiculous G's being pulled.

As for why you don't see a whole lot of... less ambitious acrobatic flying in helicopters, it's possible that certification is an issue. For example, the British Army Lynx display includes rolls, loops and even back-flips. However, I distinctly remember commentary at an airshow I attended saying that, when the Lynx is retired fairly soon, its replacement won't be certified for any kind of acrobatics.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure about your last sentence? It seems that the Royal Navy's Black Cats use the Wildcat. $\endgroup$ May 29, 2021 at 16:11

As ratchet freak mentioned, it is simply not common. Why, you ask?

Airplane aerobatics? Calculated, practiced, somewhat risky, entertaining.

Helicopter aerobatics? Closer to a death wish than airplane aerobatics.

The aerodynamics of helicopters are more complex (think fragile). There aren't as many people willing to do it.


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