As a frequent traveller in helicopters flitting between offshore platforms, am aware that lots of pilots are frustrated submariners and love to skim across the waves thus keeping my teeth and bowels clenched until I can scurry off the aircraft as soon as it lands.

Nosw however I am informed that some helicopters can “loop the loop” and flip over sideways.

I would hate the pilots who skipper my flights to get wind of this unseemly acrobatic feat. But is it so? Please say it isn’t so.

It’s so.

Er. I realize that response isn’t going to calm you down any, so how about this.

Some helicopters are capable of the flight you described. However, it’s very unlikely you would experience it on board one of your ferry flights, for several reasons.

I often conduct research flights with passengers aboard. Quite a few of these passengers have never flown in light aircraft before, and are pretty nervous. My main goals for these flights are:

  1. Keep the passangers safe
  2. Try to keep them from throwing up all over everything

Googling “Helicopter loop” yields some useful info (some pertaining to RC helicopters, and some to the manned types). Whether rotary or fixed-wing, in an aircraft rated for it a properly executed loop is not an especially violent or hairy maneuver. An improperly executed one can be a big problem.

But it’s worth noting that a loop is an aerobatic maneuver, to which certain rules apply. One is that all occupants wear parachutes. So you are probably safe - your helo pilots risk losing their licenses if they try this.

  1. Only certain types of helicopter are safe to loop. Apparently, this depends mainly on the design of the rotor head.

  2. The pilots of the choppers that haul you back and forth between job sites are commercial aviators, subject to a vast number of internally- and externally-imposed regulations. The chance that one of them would arbitrarily decide to loop a chopper with passengers aboard are about the same, IMO, as that of a Delta pilot rolling a 757 under the same conditions.

That said, one job I worked on in Peru used military helicopters and pilots for crew transfers. Those cowboys used maneuvers and practices while carrying passengers that would have gotten a civil pilot bounced out of his job instantly, IMO.

Your Straight Dope Science Advisory Board speaks:
Can helicopters do loops and rolls?