Helicopter Skill Levels

Helicopters are more difficult to fly than airplanes. Some may disagree, but helicopters require coordination of 4 axes in order to successfully be flown. Today, there are fantastic options for someone wanting to learn to fly a helicopter. The learning path for helicopter flight always begins with hovering and orientation practice and advances lastly to forward flight. I am very blunt when it comes to helicopter flying and feel that there are only two paths to successful learning: Simulators (preferably) or Micro Flight.

No matter how tempting for beginners, that really cool 450 or 600 sized helicopter is going to deliver some serious pain, either financially or physically, or both. Training skids are great for micro and mini helicopters and can certainly make hovering practice easier, but the fact is helicopter piloting takes some time and patience. See the Flight School section for progressive helicopter flight instruction.

Buying your first helicopter is easier: start with a beginner! Either a coaxial fixed pitch micro or a fixed pitch single rotor micro. For around 100.00 USD, you can be well on your way to flying helicopters with the only models that can handle a minor crash without damage.

Suggested Progression

Stepping through models is fairly established and typically goes as follows:
 

Coaxial > Micro Fixed Pitch Single Rotor > Small/Mini Collective Pitch > Collective Pitch Medium+

 
Some people are comfortable skipping the coaxial and starting off with a micro Fixed Pitch Single Rotor, and that’s fine. You’ll hit the deck a bit more that with the single rotor but the micro should handle it pretty well provided you cut the throttle before impact and aren’t going too fast.

See Flight School for more information regarding flight difficulty and learning steps.

 

Micro Coaxial Fixed Pitch
Excellent beginner helicopters. Coaxial helicopters are extremely stable and will maintain a hover without corrective inputs. This allows the pilot plenty of time to get used to stick orientation. Indoor only flyers or outside in dead calm. Examples: Heli-Max Novus CX, E-Flite Blade MCX2, Hirobo XRB
 

Micro Fixed Pitch Single Rotor
With the recent introduction of true micro single rotor helicopters, indoor flying and off-season practice has taken a new direction. Micro FP Single Rotor helis are very stable but introduce you to large-scale heli piloting. Indoor and outdoor on very calm days. Examples: E-Flite MSR, Heli-Max Novus FP

Small (Mini) Fixed Pitch Single Rotor
The last step for some flyers before they move into Collective Pitch flying is the FP mini. Stable and generally forgiving during hovering, FP minis get a little hairy when you start forward flight, especially models with a fixed pitch tail rotor with a separate drive motor; the lack of tail authority can make flying a little tricky. Examples: E-Flite Blade SR, Heli-Max Novus FP125

Micro Collective Pitch (CP)
Micro CP helicopters may seem innocent enough but they are not for beginners. CP helicopter designs give the pilot a lot of control authority over the main rotors so things tend to happen very fast. Too fast when you are learning. Once you move to CP helicopters, the rule is: the larger, the more stable. The irony lies in that the bigger you go, the more expensive and more damaging the models become. CP Micros are twitchy little things that are a lot of fun for indoor flying if you can already pilot a larger CP helicopter. Example: Heli-Max Novus CP, E-Flite Blade SR

Small (Mini) Collective Pitch (up to 450 sized)
Small CP helis tend to have nearly all the same moving parts of medium and large helicopters…just miniaturized. Typically they have belt or shaft driven variable pitch tail rotors making them very stable flyers. Being CP designs and having constant-speed tail rotors, they can perform all the 3D aerobatics of larger helicopters. Examples: Align T-Rex 250, E-flite Blade 400, Align T-Rex 450SE V3

Medium Collective Pitch (500 to 600 sized)
Medium helicopters are actually quite large and can be very dangerous. Their handling is incredible and the models are very advanced. Most competitions have a large fleet of medium sized helicopters competing. Medium helicopters are considered pro-level and should be taken very seriously. Several manufactures have focused on medium and large helicopters so there are a lot of choices on the market. Examples: Align T-Rex 500e & 600e, JR Vibe 500E, Hirobo Lepton EX, Thunder Tiger Raptor E620 SE

Large Collective Pitch (700+ sized)
Identical to medium helicopters, large helicopters are simply bigger. Larger means more stable, more expensive, more powerful and even more dangerous. Expert helicopter pilots can really wring out extreme aerobatics with large helicopters but beginners and intermediates are wise to consider improving their skills a bit before making the commitment.
Example: Align T-Rex 700E

Helicopter Sizing Guide

 

Flying Weight Range 1.0-2.0 oz. (28-57g) Approx. 12 oz. (340g) Approx. 1.7 lbs (770g) 5.5-7.5 lbs. (2.5-3.4kg) 10.5+ lbs (4.8+kg)

Main Rotor Blade Diameter Approx 7.0 in. (178mm) Approx. 20 in. (508mm) Approx. 28 in. (610mm) 47-54 in. (1188-1350mm) 61+ in. (1562+mm)

Electric Motor Size Mini/Micro/100-200 200-300 400-500 500-600 700+

Motor Type Coreless DC, Brushed DC Brushed/ Brushless DC Brushless DC Brushless DC Brushless DC

Battery Voltage* Average 3.7 Volts DC 7.4-11.1 Volts DC Typically 11.1 Volts DC Typically 22.2 Volts DC 22.2+ Volts DC

Battery Amperage 110-250 mAh 650-1200 mAh 2100-3200 mAh 4200-4600 mAh 9000+ mAh

Combustion Engine Equivalent Displacement N/A .049 .10 – .20 .30 – .60 .70+

Skill Level Beginner Beginner – Intermediate Intermediate – Advanced Advanced – Pro Advanced – Pro

Fixed Pitch or Variable Pitch Fixed Pitch Both Variable Variable Variable

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