Everest Diary

How High Can a Helicopter Fly? Can it Fly to Mount Everest?

Mount Everest, the world’s peak, lies at a staggering height of 8848 meters. Many people have attempted to get on top of this peak. Many have succeeded, and many have failed. But have you ever wondered about reaching its top with the help of a helicopter? We all have certainly wondered these two questions: How high can a helicopter fly? Can it Fly to Mount Everest?

The idea of flying to the world’s peak sounds fascinating. However, the work is very technical and difficult to achieve. If you are wondering if we can summit Everest by air, you will not get a straight answer. You might have come across various articles explaining about technicalities of flying atop mountains. But we’ve made these answers quite simple for you. Stick with us to get the basic idea!

Can a helicopter fly to the top of mount everest?

How high can a helicopter fly on Everest?

The answer to “can a helicopter fly to the top of mount everest,” in short, is yes. Flying to the top of Mount Everest is possible. But the answer to “how high can a helicopter fly?” is not set in stone. Mankind have successfully reached Everest’s peak by helicopter. The flight of Didier DelSalle went to the summit of Mount Everest in 2005. Although this might sound fascinating, do not get excited. This was the first and only time a helicopter helped people summit Everest. Such occurrences have not happened since then.

From a commercial and recreational point of view, it would be a wonderful idea to fly to Everest. You could easily reach the top of the world without any substantial physical effort. Travel agencies could benefit from this idea and earn a lot. But this does not happen. This is because flying to the top of Mount Everest requires adhering to very minute details.

If you plan to fly helicopters or other air-based transportation systems as high as Everest, you need to consider many technical and scientific factors. You need to understand nuances about how flying to such high altitudes works. Understanding this nuance makes it clear why flying atop Mount Everest is not regular.

Hence,it is possible for helicopters to fly to the top of Everest, but it is very rare.

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The science behind high-altitude flights

The flights aimed toward high-altitude places like Everest are not the same as regular ones. Pilots need to consider many scientific factors to ensure that the flight is successful. You can understand these simply by three major factors in air. They constitute the density or air in high places, the oxygen levels, and the weather of the mountains. Pilots must also keep margins for error prevention concerning these factors.

If scientists closely work with these factors, the answer to “can a helicopter fly to the top of mount everest” is yes. However, if there are certain errors, the answer could also be no.

Oxygen levels

The oxygen levels at the Everest base camp drop by half compared to the normal sea level. The oxygen levels continue to fall as you ascend. Even when done carefully, acclimating to such low oxygen levels is challenging. The sudden drop in oxygen levels during a flight could be fatal. At the 8000-meter mark, oxygen levels can fall as low as 33%. Pilots traveling by helicopter on such low oxygens have to gamble with their life. Adjusting to low oxygen levels during treks is possible. But the sudden change during flights is dangerous. This is one of the reasons flying to Everest’s peak by helicopter is not normal.

Density of air

The fundamental understanding you must have while planning a trip to a high-altitude location is the changes in the environment. The lower the air pressure and density, the higher the plane. The air pressure at the summit of Mount Everest is one-third that of sea level. This level of air pressure is difficult for helicopters to manage.

Low density in the air brings risks of health issues to pilots. Along with that, it also brings risks with handling the helicopter itself. Helicopters do not reach high as quickly as they normally do when the air density is low. Lower air density also leads to decreased performance of automobiles. So overall functioning of the aircraft would be in danger.

Such low air density risks are also a reason why helicopters do not regularly fly to Everest.

Weather issues

Weather issues play a major factor in achieving a successful flight. The weather in the Himalayas is very uncertain. Making flights toward such regions quite gruesome. There exists a tiny margin of suitable weather when flights are possible. They mostly fall during the spring or autumn seasons. The only flight to summit Everest, Didier DelSalle also made the flight during such a season. The summit happened in May.

The Khumbu region has frigid weather for most of the seasons. The place experiences a lot of snowstorms and winds. Many disastrous incidents of avalanches are regular within the foothills of such tall mountains. Such type of weather would make a successful flight impossible. A heavy enough ice serape flying through a snowstorm could easily dismantle a whole helicopter.

Avalanche season is the worst time climatically in the Himalayas. But other seasons also bring their own set of risks. The spring months bring significantly safer weather, but the wind in the higher part of the mountains is very strong. You will get wind of 75mph which is quite literally a classified category one hurricane. So flying a helicopter regularly through such harsh weather conditions is not a wise choice.

Weight of the Helicopter

Aircrafts are made with light materials and light metals like aluminum. Using an aircraft or a helicopter to go to a height as tall as Everest would require an especially lighter helicopter. The air pressure issues of flying high can be overcome by modifying the aircraft’s materials.

The same type of modification was done to Didier DeSalle for its flight. Making such extra modifications and changes to a flight is a great hassle. You cannot expect to have such types of modified helicopters traveling on a regular basis.

Hence, having to modify the helicopter’s weight also makes flying to Everest a very rare task.

Rigorous task

Flying to Everest means rigorously working on your flight and its technicalities. A helicopter flight is incomplete without the pilots making the necessary calculation to keep it going. Various factors play a role in an aircraft flying. Air pressure, temperature, height, angle, weather, etc., affect the flight.

These factors change rapidly during an ascent to a higher place. Skilled quick pilots must change these calculations to ensure a safe flight. Pilots ought to be cautious and extra quick, or else a disastrous accident could happen. Accidents in such mountainous regions would kill the people on the flight and passersby. Flight accidents could cause avalanches or other accidents affecting climbers and trekkers.

So, it would not be a stretch to say flying to Everest comes with many risks. This is another reason why people refrain from making Everest summit flights regular.

How high can a helicopter fly on Everest?

How high can a helicopter fly_ Can it Fly to Mount Everest

Helicopters are used to make emergency rescues in case of need during Everest climbs or treks. Climbers that fall ill or get stranded can be rescued by helicopters. During avalanches and snowstorms, helicopter rescues are common throughout the Himalayas. But there are limitations to such rescue flights too. But with such flights, how high can a helicopter fly? Can it fly to Mount Everest’s top?

We have already established the possibility of helicopters summiting Everest in rarity. But on a regular basis, helicopters usually fly as high as the 6400-meter mark at Everest. This is at the mark of Camp 2 of Everest. Rescue helicopters also usually stay within this limit.

Rescue helicopters can be a life-saving tool during a Mount Everest ascent. But they are useless once you reach Camp 2. There is no flat surface above this point to make helicopter rescues possible.

From the point of view of rescue helicopters, the answer to” can a helicopter fly to the top of Mount Everest?” is a certain no.

Can helicopters fly higher than Everest?

Can helicopters fly higher than Everest?

The answer to “can a helicopter fly over Everest?” is also complex. There have been flights that go higher than the altitude of Everest. However, you cannot equate it to proving helicopters do fly higher than Everest.

Before the Didier DeSalle summited Everest, in 1972, an aircraft flew over 12442 meters. It was an Aerospatiale SA 315 Lama. Another aircraft called the Eurocopter AS350 B2 flew higher than that in 2002. Such flights are made to test human limits. People only fly such aircraft to make or break world records. Such flights are not regular and are done by taking extreme risks.

In short, yes, helicopters are capable of flying higher than Everest. There have been no flights that have directly gone above Everest. It could be possible, but if done, it would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Helicopters tour of Everest

Everest Helicopter Tour

We have established that helicopters cannot be used for regular joes like us to summit Everest. However, it is hundred percent possible to fly near the vicinity of Everest by helicopter. There are many variations of scenic helicopter flights to the Khumbu region. Many trekking agencies provide such services, including us at Trek EBC.

There is a myriad of variations of EBC region helicopter flights that we provide. You could take a flight from Kathmandu to land at Lukla and watch the beautiful mountain range from the sky. Similarly, there are helicopter-based flights available to take you from Kathmandu to Namche Bazaar. Such flights will be a 50-minute trip and cut short your days if you plan to do the EBC trek. You can simply board such flights to visit Namche Bazaar too. We also have a helicopter-based package where you can trek to Gorakshep and fly back to Lukla. There are variations of EBC trek packages, where we fly on helicopters to and from Lukla too.

These flights will be mesmerizing and give you the best visuals of your lifetime. Splendid vistas of mountains like Mt. Everest, Nuptse, Amadablam, Lhotse, Changtse, Pumori, Nup II, etc., are visible. If you wish to be on such majestic flights, make sure you remember us.

Contact us at Trek EBC to learn more about helicopter-based packages or to book your flight.

Frequently Asked Questions

How high can a helicopter fly?

The answer to “how high can a helicopter fly?” is complex. Normally helicopter flights run at an altitude of 4000 meters to 5000 meters. But the highest flight ever made was at the height of 12441 meters by an SA 315 Lama flown by aviator Jean Boulet in 1972.

Can a helicopter fly to Everest?

Yes, helicopters do fly to Everest and its vicinity often. Traveling straight to the summit of Everest by helicopter is not possible. However, you can make helicopter tours to many places near Khumbu.

What is the highest helicopter flight to Mount Everest?

Helicopters go as high as the Camp 2 of Everest for climbers. Other helicopter flights are available for normal trekkers that go up to the Kala Patthar viewpoint.

Can a helicopter land on top of Everest?

Yes, a helicopter has landed on top of Everest. It was once done by Didier DelSalle in 2005. However, such flights are very rare and are done just to test scientific limits.

Can helicopters reach the base camp of Everest?

Yes, helicopters can fly to the base camp of Everest. Rescue helicopters can fly up to camp 2 of Everest too. However, for regular tourists, there are several helicopter tour package flights to the Base camp. Such flights give you a scenic aerial tour with beautiful vistas of the mountains of the Khumbu region. You can also travel to the Kala Patthar viewpoint through such flights.

Why can’t we go to Everest by helicopter?

Summiting Everest by helicopter is not viable due to various scientific reasons. The weight of the helicopter, the air pressure, low oxygen levels, the weather, etc., make flights very risky

Although flying directly to Everest’s summit is not possible, you can fly around the region of Everest.


Traveller, Travel Blogger and SEO Expert who combines his love for exploration with his talent for writing and digital marketing.

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