I would like to know if a small airplane, like a Cessna, has ever been air launched from a heavy-lift helicopter, perhaps as a stunt or as an aviation experiment?

I think it would have been a simple matter of lifting a small airplane with a special detachable hitch on the top of the airplane and then for the helicopter to have taken it up to a height of say 10,000 ft. I imagine the airplane would have then started its engine, detached from the lift cable, gone into an immediate dive, and then would have come out the dive after a thousand feet or so.

I have searched the Internet for a stunt/experiment like this one, but have not found any.

  • $\begingroup$ When you say "air launched" do you mean with the intention for the aircraft to continue to fly and land on its own? There have been many launches from balloons, and I think I remember a case where a helicopter dropped an aircraft with a parachute with the goal of testing the chute system, but the aircraft was unmanned and did not intend on flying. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 21:39
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This is pretty close: youtube.com/watch?v=bbrmOs48tNE an aerotow of a sailplane by a helicopter. It looks like, at release, the glider is hanging fairly straight down. After release and recovery, it flies fine. $\endgroup$
    – rgeorge
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer, I am looking for a powered, manned small airplane that did not land via a parachute, but that the pilot flew to an airport and landed the plane on its wheels. $\endgroup$
    – user36220
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 22:38

2 Answers 2


November 2017 the Dream Chaser shuttle craft was dropped from a Chinook helicopter from over 12,000 feet. The automated glide test back to a runway near Mojave, California was a success.


Yes, for very small aircraft.

Specifically "jet wingpack" aircraft such as those used by Yves Rossy typically launch by jumping off the skids of a helicopter

Generally speaking more conventional aircraft would do better launching from a fixed-wing carrier aircraft (like a B29, B52, something custom, or releasing off the back of a converted airliner like the space shuttle approach and landing tests) - airplanes don't really like to be "dropped" - releasing one fixed wing aircraft from another would be planned to mean that you start out in controlled flight, even if in your classic (Bell X-1 etc) type case there is some immediate loss of altitude.

Generally, when helicopters carry other aircraft, it is for recovery operations after a crash or off-field landing - there is no intention to fly the aircraft off the cable, rather it is going back to a maintenance or salvage facility.

But there have been other exceptions - NASA's remote piloted Hyper III lifting body test craft was helicopter dropped (youtube)


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