Updated date:

Fastest Civilian Transport Helicopters in the World

Savio is a resident of Mumbai, India. Cars, bikes, and everything fast are his passion, and he writes about them on many sites.

Civilian Transport Helicopters - An Introduction

When it comes to transport helicopters, there is not much that differentiates the military and the civilian ones. No doubt, instrumentation, weapon carrying capability and internal configuration may change but more or less speed-wise they will be the same. One other aspect is that few of the military versions were initially civilian version, modified for military use. This is a bit different from the aircraft world.

Not many civilian aircraft can come close to the speed of the military ones. Leave alone speed, even in the way they are used there are hardly any civilian aircraft having similarity with the military one; heard of any civilian version of SR – 71? Some of them may have the same genesis but the finished product is as different as chalk and cheese. For example, the Boeing KC 747 used for air – refueling in the Iranian Air Force is the cousin of the quite famous Boeing 747 commercial airliner yet very different as end products.

So, readers may, more or less, find few of the helicopters that we saw under the Fastest Military Transport Helicopters list over here too. Of course, the most interesting part is that the fastest chopper on the civilian side is almost as fast as the military one. This is something unique to the chopper world. It is not seen in the aircraft, ship or drone world. Usually, it is the military versions which are faster.

Anyway, despite this aberration or rather because of the aberration, it will be fun to know these helicopters. So, let’s get to know them.

1. AgustaWestland AW609


This is the fastest civilian transport helicopter in the world and appears to have come out of a sci-fi movie, namely Avatar. However, this helicopter had taken first flight even before the movie released, so, we may just conjecture which one was inspiring which one. The AW609 is a tiltrotor Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) helicopter and has some military underpinnings due to its Bell lineage.

  • Name: AW609
  • Manufacturer: AgustaWestland (formerly Bell/Agusta)
  • Top Speed [Operational]: 275 knots [316.2 mph or 509 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 275 knots [316.2 mph or 509 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 6 to 9 Passengers
  • Numbers Produced: 700 [Expected. Not launched yet]
  • Year of Manufacture: 2003 [First flight]
  • Status: In Service by 2019

The AW609 was formerly known as the Bell/Agusta BA609 and was targeted towards VVIP segments for its apparent configuration and speed. The genesis of the model goes back to NASA testing in the 80s and from there the civilian version AW609 and the military version V-22 Osprey. The model allows vertical landing and take-off like a helicopter but speed much higher than a rotorcraft.

You can read about the V-22 in the article on the Fastest Military Transport Helicopters.

2. Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin

All Nippon Helicopter's Eurocopter AS365N2

All Nippon Helicopter's Eurocopter AS365N2

The AS365 Dauphin is the fastest conventional transport helicopter in the world setting a world record speed of 372 kmph in 1991 over a 3 km course. The interesting part is that this is faster than the H160M, the fastest conventional military transport chopper. Also, in the world of helicopters, the Dauphin comes only after the tiltrotor models. That, I guess, speaks a lot about this helicopter.

  • Name: Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin
  • Manufacturer: Airbus
  • Top Speed Record: 201 knots [231 mph or 372 kmph]
  • Top Speed [Operational]: 165.3 knots [190 mph or 306 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 151.2 knots [174 mph or 280 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1 or 2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 11 or 12 Passengers
  • Numbers Produced: 1000+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1975
  • Status: In production and active service

Since 1975 the chopper has set many records, one of them being the fastest run between London and Paris. This speed was achieved by a prototype at 322 kmph. The Dauphin does have a military version too and is used by few countries. The largest civilian fleet of the Dauphin belongs to Pawan Hans of India while countries like China have modified the Dauphin to act as an attack helicopter.

3. Airbus H160


The next helicopter on the list is actually the successor of the AS365 Dauphin. After all, the Dauphin has been in production since 1975. The H160 is similar to the military version, which is denoted as 160 M and the military version of this model is the fastest conventional helicopter in the world.

  • Name: H160
  • Manufacturer: Airbus
  • Top Speed: 175.5 knots [201.9 mph or 325 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 155 knots [178.3 mph or 287 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 12 Passengers
  • Numbers Produced: Not Started Yet
  • Year of Manufacture: 2019
  • Status: Completed Development stage. In production

The H160 boasts of the best in development and is the first in the world to sport an electric landing gear and brake assembly. This also has led to weight – saving in the process. The H160 is set to replace the AS365 Dauphin and take on competition like AugustaWestland AW139. In fact, the advanced development ensured that the H160 is nearly a ton lighter than the AW139 while being more fuel efficient and providing the same level of performance.

4. Airbus H155 [EC155]


The H155 is the civilian version coming out of the Dauphin family and most of the helicopters in this family is for civilian use. Named earlier as the EC155 and then Eurocopter before finally following the Airbus corporate nomenclature of H155.

  • Name: H155
  • Manufacturer: Airbus
  • Top Speed: 175 knots [201.2 mph or 324 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 162 knots [186.3 mph or 300 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1 or 2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 13 Passengers
  • Numbers Produced: 400+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1999
  • Status: In Production. Will continue to be manufactured from Korea

The H155 had contributed a lot to the design of the X3, the fastest military attack helicopter, and the H160, one of the fastest transport helicopters in the world. In a sense, it therefore, becomes the test bed for both types of known helicopters. Also the H155 will see the military side of business as a collaboration between Airbus Helicopters and Korean Aerospace Industries, leading to both, attack and transport helicopters.

5. Airbus H255 [Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma]


The H255, again name changed under the rebranding exercise of Airbus, is one of the few long range medium lift helicopter in the civilian space. It can carry up to 24 passengers in one lift, second only to the Vertol 234 on this list.

  • Name: H225
  • Manufacturer: Airbus
  • Top Speed [Operational]: 175 knots [201.2 mph or 324 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 141 knots [162 mph or 261 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2 + 1 (Cabin Attendant)
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 24 Passengers
  • Numbers Produced: 190+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1999
  • Status: In Production and active service

The Airbus H255 is expected to stay in production till 2030 and already has a successor planned. It is named as Airbus X6 as of now and will have an overlap of the production with the H255 to allow the transition. Because of its long-range, one of the most important roles of the H255 is off-shore operations and off-shore search and rescue.

6. Boeing Vertol 234


This is the civilian sibling of the famous Chinook helicopter from the United States. This is one chopper whose genesis is on the military side and then moved on to civilian version. Capabilities in terms of lift remain similar to the Chinook and can take up to 55 people in one go.

  • Name: Vertol 234
  • Manufacturer: Boeing
  • Top Speed: 170 knots [195.7 mph or 315 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 159 knots [184 mph or 296 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 3
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: Up to 55
  • Numbers Produced: 1500+ [Civilian and Military]
  • Year of Manufacture: 1962
  • Status: In active service and active production

The Vertol can be configured for cargo transport, passenger transport or both cargo and passenger. In addition, it can also function as a utility transport helicopter. It does carry one tag from the Chinook and that is of one of the heaviest lift helicopters in the western world.

7. Airbus Helicopters H175 [EC 175]


The H175 is one of the newest on the block. It is produced by two countries currently, albeit for their own use. France and China manufacture the helicopter as EC 175 (Changed to H175 in 2015) and the Harbin Z-15, respectively. The chopper is built for medium transport purposes, however, is referred to as super-medium because of its lift capability.

  • Name: H175
  • Manufacturer: Airbus Helicopters
  • Top Speed: 170 knots [195.7 mph or 315 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 162 knots [186.3 mph or 300 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 12-18 Passengers
  • Numbers Produced: 1000 [Estimated projection over next 20 years]
  • Year of Manufacture: 2009 (France) and 2016 (China)
  • Status: In production and active service

8. AgustaWestland AW109


The AW109 is a light transport helicopter and entered service in 2005. Majority of the service is in the light transport, medical evacuation, & search-and-rescue area.

  • Name: AW109
  • Manufacturer: AgustaWestland
  • Top Speed: 168 knots [193.2 mph or 311 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 156.1 knots [179.5 mph or 289 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1-2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 6 or 7
  • Numbers Produced: 50+ [Maximum Civilian]
  • Year of Manufacture: 2005
  • Status: In production and active service

9. Aerospatiale Gazelle SA342J


Much like the Chinook, the Gazelle too was primarily made for military use. The Gazelle was the first in the world to sport a Fenerstron tail. There were many variants to the Gazelle but just one known civilian variant and that is the SA342J. Here are some stats:

  • Name: Gazelle SA342J
  • Manufacturer: Sud Aviation
  • Top Speed: 167.4 knots [192.6 mph or 310 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 142.6 knots [164 mph or 264 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 3
  • Numbers Produced: 1800+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1977 (Military version started from 1973)
  • Status: In active service

The Gazelle was a light transport helicopter and in fact, had a powerful engine as compared to the military variant of the time, to enable it to have increased take-off weight. The civilian version did find a market but the bulk was bought by Vought Helicopters at that time. They had an estimated 70 Gazelles in operation.

10. AgustaWestland AW139

AW139: Air Ambulance Model

AW139: Air Ambulance Model

This was the first helicopter which was launched post the merger of Agusta and Westland. The AW139 was built for civilian use and then migrated to military version.

  • Name: AW139
  • Manufacturer: AgustaWestland
  • Top Speed: 167.4 knots [192.6 mph or 310 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 165.3 knots [190 mph or 306 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1-2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 15
  • Numbers Produced: 900+ [Maximum Civilian]
  • Year of Manufacture: 2003
  • Status: In production and active service

11. AgustaWestland AW101


The AW101 entered service just before the merger of Agusta and Westland. The bulk of the helicopters produced are in military use across the globe. The civilian use is for mostly VIP transportation followed by passenger movement.

  • Name: AW101 [Earlier EH 101 and Merlin]
  • Manufacturer: AgustaWestland
  • Top Speed: 166.9 knots [191.9 mph or 309 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 150.2 knots [172.7 mph or 278 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 3-4
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 26 - 45
  • Numbers Produced: 140+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1999
  • Status: In production and active service

12. Kamov Ka-62

  • Name: Ka-62
  • Manufacturer: Kamov
  • Top Speed: 166.4 knots [191.3 mph or 308 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 156.6 knots [180.1 mph or 290 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1-2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 12-15 Passengers
  • Numbers Produced: 28 Planned
  • Year of Manufacture: Expected in service by 2022
  • Status: Development complete. In production from 2022

13. Sikorsky S – 92

  • Name: S - 92
  • Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft [Lockheed Martin]
  • Top Speed: 165.3 knots [190.1 mph or 306 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 151.2 knots [173.9 mph or 280 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 19 Passengers
  • Numbers Produced: 200+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1998
  • Status: In production and active service

14. Mi - 26T


The Mi – 26 T is the civilian version of the Mi – 26. It is the largest and most powerful helicopter in the world. Where most of the heavy-lift helicopters have a weight limit of 9-10 tons, the Mi-26 T goes right up to 25 tons.

Mi - 26 lifting a plane. Raw Power!

Power Stats of the Mi - 26T

  • Name: Mi – 26T
  • Manufacturer: Rostvertol
  • Top Speed: 159.3 knots [183.2 mph or 295 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 137.7 knots [158.4 mph or 255 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 2 pilots + 3 crew
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 90
  • Numbers Produced: 300+
  • Year of Manufacture: 1983
  • Status: In production and active service

15. HAL Dhruv


Dhruv is manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) of India. It was in development since 1984 but the helicopter entered service in 2002. Dhruv is available in both civilian and military version.

  • Name: Dhruv
  • Manufacturer: HAL
  • Top Speed: 159.3 knots [183.2 mph or 295 kmph]
  • Cruise Speed: 140.4 knots [161.5 mph or 260 kmph]
  • Crew Size: 1 or 2 pilots
  • Passenger Carrying Capacity: 12-14
  • Numbers Produced: 200
  • Year of Manufacture: 1992
  • Status: In production and active service

Back to the Hangar

The top five spots are dominated by Airbus helicopters but when it comes to raw power and speed, nothing beats the Mi – 26T. Airbus is investing a lot on next-generation helicopters and hence we may see more of the ultra-luxurious and the faster ones soon. As and when they hit the market or the development phase demonstrates world-beating speed, rest assured they will be updated here.

Disclaimer: The videos added in the article belong to the users who have posted them on youtube. The Author does not own them nor validates that they belong to the ones who posted them on youtube. The videos are included to give some additional information about the subject being discussed.

© 2018 Savio Koman

Related Articles