What Are The Differences Between A Helicopter And an Airplane?

That a helicopter and an airplane both fly in the air does not rule out the question, what are the differences between a helicopter and an airplane? Yes! They both fly in the air. They covey you and goods in different amounts to destinations you want them to. And they are both flown by a pilot. But that is just the line that they intersect.

There are differences between the two even when both are called aircraft. The similarities do not make them the same. And this article will dissect all that you need to know about the differences between a helicopter and an airplane. There are various ways that a helicopter is different from an airplane. So, let’s dive in!

What are the Main Differences Between a Helicopter and an Airplane?

The main differences between a helicopter and an airplane are highlighted and explained below;

  • Flight: The two aircraft do not fly in the same way, and that is one of the major differences between a helicopter and an airplane. While an airplane requires a constant flow of air over its wings to stay aloft, the helicopter on the other hand depends on its rotor blades to spin very fast, to provide the lift needed by the helicopter for flight.
  • Take off: A helicopter can take off just about as much time as its engines are ignited and the blades have started spinning. On the other hand, an airplane requires travel for a couple of minutes along the runway to take off. This also translates to the fact that a helicopter has the freedom to easily go places immediately when required, without the need to take a stroll on the long runway for takeoff.
  • Landing: An airplane cannot land just anywhere it wants to because of its size and the room it needs to be able to travel along a runway without obstruction from interfering objects. A helicopter can land in many places, even in inaccessible places. This makes them the go-to options for search and rescue missions.
  • Hover: A helicopter can hover and take tight turns which an airplane cannot do. The airplane must constantly be moving to stay aloft. Thus, it is nearly impossible to hover. The helicopter can hover and wait while a rescuer is lowered down, and a victim is brought back up on a rescue mission. This option is not open to the airplane.
  • Control and Operation: An airplane can nearly fly itself if there are no strong wings and the plane is stable. All that the pilot has to do is take control of the yoke and rudder pedals to operate the plane. Just a little adjustment here and there and the airplane is all fine and ‘sailing’ in the air. However, a helicopter is more complicated to fly. The pilot must constantly take control of the aircraft with both hands and feet. The pilot must use the collective, cyclic, and anti-torque pedals to main control of the helicopter. The smallest lack of attention has a big repercussion. The pilot must also monitor the flight path just in case corrections are needed.
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It may seem to you that the training process of flying a helicopter might be more difficult than that of an airplane. However, that is not the case. Learning to fly both aircraft requires a lot of training and on-the-job experience to become a pro. The training program for both schools is always rigorous to ensure the safety of the pilot and the passengers.

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Stability difference of helicopters and airplanes

In terms of stability, helicopters are harder to operate. They require a second rotor to ensure that the body does not spin. Thus, they are less stable in the air. The airplane wins here because they are very stable and often balance when all the control inputs are neutral. That is, the pilots’ control on the yoke or rudder paddles is put in fine check.

Do you have a desire to learn more about the Stability and control of helicopters and airplanes, ScienceDirect has robust information for you that you can check out in your free time.

Safety Differences of Helicopters and Airplanes

Commercial airplanes are the safest among the means of transportation available. On record, statistics show that commercial jets have a fatality rate of just one death per 2.7 million on board. While the helicopter is not as safe as commercial aviation, they are safer than general aviation.

Can Helicopters Fly as Airplanes?

The answer to this question is a big No! Though both helicopters and airplanes fly, helicopters cannot fly as airplanes. The reason for this is enumerated in the preceding paragraph.

  • Different laws govern the way a helicopter can fly and the way an airplane can fly. And the pilots are under obligation to obey those laws.
  • As a safety precaution, the airplane must stay at a certain altitude above the ground all the time, except for when they are over open water or when they are about to land. On the other hand, the helicopter must maintain a lower altitude. There are also landmarks that the helicopter can access because of easy maneuvering. The helicopters do not also need a runway to land or take off. Thus, helicopters cannot fly as airplanes.
  • The helicopter cannot fly as an airplane because airplanes can carry more fuel than helicopters. Airplanes are required to carry enough fuel for the entire journey in addition to 30-45 minutes extra. Helicopters can carry less fuel and need to carry just that which is sufficient for the trip, in addition to 20 minutes extra.
  • The airplane requires a good line of visibility before they can fly, they therefore cannot fly in low visibility weather as the helicopters could do. Helicopters enjoy the freedom to fly in low visibility weather, as the pilots have available instrument panels used in flying in low visibility weather.
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From the foregoing, it is established that helicopters cannot fly like airplanes, nor can airplanes fly like helicopters. Though they are both aircraft, their design and usage differ.

Cost differences of airplanes and helicopters

The cost difference of airplanes and helicopters in terms of ownership is that, it is more expensive to own a helicopter than to own an airplane.

When it comes to maintenance, it also costs more to maintain a helicopter than it would to maintain an airplane.

The cost of insurance also varies. While it is less costly to have insurance coverage for the airplane, it cost more to have insurance coverage for the helicopter.

In addition, the operating cost of a helicopter is higher as compared with that used in operating an airplane.

The plethora of moving parts in helicopters is often what makes them more expensive. The helicopter’s rotors, engine, blades, fuel control systems, and transmission are all essential to its operation. The price of these components increases because they require precise production procedures.

When you train to become a pilot, especially one that pilots a helicopter, you are likely to incur more costs. This reason is reiterated by the fact that helicopters are more expensive to maintain and fly. However, the cost of training cannot be compared to the prestige it brings. Living your dream in the sky is definitely worth a fortune, and the sky is just your starting point.

A helicopter costs an average of $1,794,793. The least expensive secondhand helicopters, though, can only cost $100,000. The priciest helicopters available can reach $27,000,000. A used Bell 407 helicopter is often listed for $1,907,000.

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Commercial planes, on the other hand, cost tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The most popular commercial planes from Boeing range from $89.1 million to $112.6 million. Comparatively, the most common commercial airplanes from Airbus range from $89.6 million to $114.9 million.


In conclusion, this article has discussed the main difference between a helicopter and an airplane, taking into account the salient differences. It also examined the stability and control of each of the two aircraft. The safety of each machine was discussed in terms of general aviation and commercial, and statistics were given where necessary. With the idea that not only does design makes it very impossible for helicopters to fly like an airplane, but some laws guide both. And the pilots of each machine must strictly adhere to the regulations. That was also identified as one of the reasons why a helicopter cannot fly like an airplane.

The article then concludes by comparing the cost of purchasing a helicopter with the cost of airplanes, noting that it cost more to purchase and maintain a helicopter than an airplane.

It is hereby recommended that the price does not matter and you can decide to go for any of the two based on your need and preference. Good luck!

James Blake

By James Blake

Does it fly? Then I am interested!

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