How Many Passengers Fit in a Helicopter?

29 January 2023   |  Updated on February 05, 2024

Helicopters are fascinating and largely misunderstood aircraft. Most people see them as slow, noisy, and unattractive; unlike airplanes, their faster, more powerful, and sleeker-looking cousins. At first glance, helicopters don’t inspire much confidence with their bulging fuselages topped by a mast with rotating blades that looks anything but aerodynamic Рuntil it gets airborne. 

There is little doubt that helicopters have been indispensable flying machines since they debuted during the late 1940s. They can fly anywhere and land on almost any surface. Helicopters perform critical roles in every military service and law enforcement unit. Helicopters also perform vital civilian functions, and entire industries would not be possible without them. Helicopters are generally designed for specialty roles and have cabin space for a few or several passengers. 

How many passengers fit in a helicopter?

The answer depends on the helicopter type, purpose, and size. Most civilian helicopters have seats for a pilot and four passengers. Also, helicopter cabins are configurable for different seating requirements. For example, sightseeing and charter helicopters can seat between 6 to 8 passengers depending on the cabin seat configuration. Larger military helicopters can transport up to 30 passengers or are configured to fit 16 stretchers. 

You may not know it, but the Soviet Union’s Mil V-12 helicopter can fit 196 passengers, the largest for any helicopter ever built. It weighs 152,339 pounds and holds the world record for the largest helicopter.  

How Many Passengers Fit in a Helicopter?

By Groningen Airport-Eelde

Production helicopters do not carry as many passengers as the Mil V-12, but their remarkable cabin passenger space can fit many people. It is interesting to note that the largest passenger helicopters in production are military transports. However, several civilian versions of these helicopters serve as air taxis with charter companies. 

Below is a table illustrating the passenger capacity of several large production helicopters. 

Name Country of ProductionNo. of Passengers 
Mil Mi-26Russia90
Boeing CH-47F Chinook United States 55
AgustaWestland AW-101 Italy/United Kingdom38
Mil Mi-8 Russia 32
Mil Mi-38Russia30
Changhe Z-18China 30
CH-53K King Stallion United States 30
Eurocopter EC 725France 28
Avicopter AC313China 27
Aérospatiale SA 321 Super FrelonFrance 27
Bell Boeing V-22 OspreyUnited States 24
NH Industries NH90 Netherlands/France/Italy/ Germany23

How many passengers can fit in a civilian helicopter?

Most people associate helicopters with the military. But several civilian helicopter models can perform a variety of civil roles. These range from tiny stunt helicopters to large transport helicopters used on oil rigs. Their function determines the number of seats in civilian helicopters. 

Let us see how many passengers can fit in a civilian helicopter. 

Police helicopters 

These helicopter types perform several vital roles in helping law enforcement officials maintain law and order. These can include tracking fleeing suspects to rapidly deploying armed combat units to active crime scenes. (Learn more about what police helicopters do)

Examples of police helicopters and their passenger capacity include:

  • Airbus H125 can fit 5 passengers plus 1 pilot, or 6 passengers and 1 pilot, depending on the cabin configuration.¬†
  • The Bell 412 is a four-rotor helicopter used for law enforcement by the New York City police and Los Angeles police departments. It fits up to 13 passengers with one or two pilots.¬†

How Many Passengers Fit in a Helicopter?

Television news helicopters

Television helicopters covering breaking events and traffic news have been around since 1958. Examples of television news helicopters and their passenger capacity include.

  • Robinson R44, a light helicopter in production since 1992. It fits 3 passengers and a pilot.¬†
  • Bell Model 407 is a popular TV news helicopter in the United States. It fits 6 passengers and a pilot.¬†¬†

How Many Passengers Fit in a Helicopter?

Firefighting helicopters

Firefighting helicopters assist state and local fire departments in fighting fires. Some firefighting helicopters are fitted with buckets that are filled by being submerged in a body of water. While some firefighting helicopters have tanks that are filled with water by ground crews or by a snorkel drawing water from a lake or reservoir. 

Examples of popular firefighting helicopters and their passenger capacity include:

  • Kaman K-MAX K-1200 is a single-seat helicopter designed for firefighting missions. It has zero passenger capacity and is flown by a single pilot.¬†
  • Sikorsky S-70A Firehawk is a firefighting version of the popular S-70 helicopter. It is fitted with a tank system and an external rescue hoist. The S-70A Firehawk fits a fire crew of twelve and 2 pilots.

Air ambulance helicopters

An air ambulance helicopter is specifically designed to transport critically ill or injured people over long distances or difficult terrains to a hospital where they can receive emergency medical care. Almost every medium-sized civilian helicopter model has an air ambulance variant. However, popular examples of air ambulance helicopters and their passenger capacity include:

  • Bell 206L LongRanger is a light helicopter developed from the successful Bell 206B JetRanger. The versatile helicopter excels at many functions, including emergency air ambulance services. It can fit seven passengers and one or two pilots.¬†
  • Agustawestland AW169 helicopter is a popular emergency medical services aircraft with enough space to fit 7 medical attendants plus 1 stretcher or 5 medical attendants plus 2 stretchers.¬†

How Many Passengers Fit in a Helicopter?

Civilian search and rescue helicopters 

Civil authorities use search and rescue helicopters to evacuate people in imminent danger. These helicopter types are modified variants of standard utility helicopter models. Search and rescue helicopters have large cabins to accommodate rescue equipment crew and rescue victims. Popular examples of search and rescue helicopters and their passenger capacity include:

  • Sikorsky S-92 search and rescue variants are formidable machines with long-range and impressive passenger capacity. A standard cabin fits 19 passengers, and cabins with side-facing seat arrangements can fit 22 passengers.¬†
  • AgustaWestland AW189 is a medium-lift helicopter used by His Majesty‚Äôs CoastGuard for search and rescue missions. It fits 13 passengers plus two pilots.¬†

Oil rig helicopters

Offshore oil rig workers fly to work and back using helicopters designed for long-range travel over water. Popular examples of helicopters used for offshore oil rig transport and their passenger capacity include:

  • Airbus H225 helicopter is a long-range passenger transport helicopter and a derivative of the highly successful Super Puma family of helicopters. It can fit 24 passengers plus two pilots and a cabin attendant.¬†
  • Leonardo AW139 helicopter is a medium-sized helicopter developed for offshore transport. Its cabin fits 15 passengers with 2 pilots.¬†

Coast Guard helicopters

The United States Coast Guard Service deploys several long-range, high-performance civilian utility helicopters designed to protect the United States coastline, rescue people stranded at sea, and intercept smuggling vessels. Popular examples of the U.S Coast Guard helicopters include:

  • Sikorsky HH-60J Jayhawk is a medium-range recovery helicopter in service with the U.S coast guard. It can fit passengers plus a crew of 4.
  • A√©rospatiale HH-65 Dolphin is a French helicopter designed specifically for the U.S. Coast Guard Service. Its cabin fits 6 passengers plus two pilots and a crewman.¬†

Passenger transport helicopters

Air charter companies provide VIP helicopter services to the wealthy who desire to travel short distances in luxury and without delays. Aircraft in this category also include corporate transport and sightseeing helicopters. Popular examples of passenger transport helicopters include:

  • Eurocopter EC155 is a luxury/utility passenger helicopter that can fit up to 13 in utility seats or 8 in a VIP/corporate transport configuration.¬†
  • Eurocopter EC130 is a light helicopter commonly used for sightseeing tours and intercity shuttle services. It can fit between 6-7 passengers in two cabin configurations plus 1 pilot.¬†
How Many Passengers Fit in a Helicopter?

Interior of the Eurocopter EC130.

How many passengers can fit in a military helicopter?

Military helicopters are incredible machines with remarkable capabilities. Their roles range from ground attack missions to anti-submarine operations. Obviously, some military helicopters, like the Apache attack helicopter and the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse light observation helicopter, are not optimized for passenger space. We will focus on medium and large military helicopters with multimission role capabilities, including troop transport, supply, and search and rescue operations. 

Troop transport helicopters 

They convey military personnel and cargo to base stations and frontline combat zones. These helicopters are specifically designed to withstand extreme operating conditions, and they provide vital service during military operations the most popular examples of troop transport helicopters and their passenger capacity include:

  • Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion has been a workhorse of the United States military since its introduction during the Vietnam War. The twin-engine heavy-lift transport helicopter can fit 38-55 troops in different configurations or 24 stretchers.¬†
  • Mil Mi-17 is one of the world’s most easily recognizable military helicopters. The medium-lift transport Russian helicopter can fit 24 troopers or 12 stretchers in its cabin.¬†

How Many Passengers Fit in a Helicopter?

Utility helicopters

Aviation experts consider utility helicopters designed with multi-mission capabilities as one of the most versatile aircraft ever developed. These helicopters can fulfill several roles like troop transport, search and rescue, medical evacuation, air assault, command, and control, etc. Here are a few examples of utility helicopters and their passenger capacity:

  • Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a twin-engine medium-lift helicopter in service with the United States military. It can fit 11 troops or 6 stretchers in its cabin.¬†
  • NH Industries NH90 is a multi-role, medium-size military helicopter developed for ground battle and naval operations. Its cabin fits 20 troops or 12 medevac stretchers.¬†

How Many Passengers Fit in a Helicopter?

Maritime and anti-submarine helicopters 

Maritime helicopters are aircraft designed for naval operations, and they deploy from navy cruisers, battleships, destroyers, and frigates. These helicopter types have multi-mission capabilities, including anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-shipping transport operations, and search and rescue missions. Here are popular examples of maritime and anti-submarine helicopters and their passenger capability. 

  • Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 Sea Hawk is the navalized version of the popular U.S army UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter. It can perform several naval warfare missions, including combat search and rescue and medical evacuation. The SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter can fit 5 passengers in its cabin plus 3 crew.¬†
  • Westland Lynx is a twin-engined naval helicopter developed for ASW, search and rescue, anti-armor, and battlefield utility roles. Its cabin fits 8 troops and 2-3 crew.¬†

Conclusion

Although helicopters do not fit as many passengers as airplanes, they can get a remarkable number of passengers airborne to perform vital military and civilian roles. Helicopters are built for specific purposes which determine their passenger carrying capacity. Law enforcement helicopters can only fit a few passengers because they are designed to be fast and agile enough to track and locate criminals. On the other hand, long-range military transport helicopters are designed to carry several troops supporting military operations. Thus, their larger passenger capacity.