Jun 04, 2021

Top 4 Helicopters for You Next Aerial Cinematography Shoot

Top 4 Helicopters for You Next Aerial Cinematography Shoot

Helicopters are purposefully versatile. That’s why they’re used for projects from search and rescue missions to aerial cinematography. Once prohibitively expensive, aerial filming is now a common, cost-effective tool—and its popular use has ushered in a new visual language in film.

Film crews from Los Angeles to Atlanta increasingly rely on helicopters to provide the scale and scope of an impressive aerial shot, a visual aesthetic that has become a staple of documentary and action filmmaking. Hiring a helicopter charter service gives production companies access to an experienced and knowledgeable aerial film crew and allows filmmakers to access worlds their audiences couldn’t previously enter.

Several helicopters are best suited to this kind of work, and if you’ve decided to contract a helicopter chartering service for aerial cinematography, it’s best to find the right helicopter for your needs.

Often, drones, an alternative choice for aerial filming, fail to meet the capabilities some directors require to create astonishing aerial shots, like height potentials, speed capabilities, energy usage and technical proficiencies.

Helicopters—like those in Helicopter Express’ diverse fleet—possess range capabilities that far outpace every drone. Even professional-grade drones run on batteries that last only 25-30 minutes, and most have ranges of less than 5 miles. Most helicopters have range capabilities between 300 and 400 miles.

Helicopters have the same advantage when it comes to height. Drones might be a good choice if you’re filming at low altitudes, but anything over a few hundred feet becomes inaccessible. While helicopters can fly as low as necessary if safe, most helicopters offer a maximum altitude capability of 8,000 to 30,000 feet.

At Helicopter Express, we recommend four helicopters for aerial cinematography, each possessing a range of diverse capabilities and all located in our expansive fleet.

Bell 407HP

Bell 407HP helicopter in a green field

Passenger Capacity: 6 passengers

Maximum Weight Capacity: 5,250 pounds

Maximum External Load: 2,500 pounds

Maximum Speed: 140 knots (161 mph)

Maximum Range: 342 miles

The Bell 407HP is a single-engine, multipurpose helicopter from Bell Helicopter, featuring a four-blade rotor design that enhances its power and speed.

The Bell 407HP is one of our most versatile aircraft, making it an ideal choice for all sorts of aerial filming missions. Using a recently upgraded Honeywell HTS900 propulsion engine, the Bell 407HP is a faster, more powerful and fuel-efficient choice for film crews requiring precision. Boasting speed, maneuverability and reliability, as well as superior capabilities in nearly all weather conditions, the Bell 407HP is an ideal aircraft for the most remote and demanding aerial shots.

Able to fit 6 passengers, the Bell 407HP is also spacious, able to accommodate larger film crews tasked with executing a particular cinematic mission.

New technologies in the HP include:

For an aerial filming crew, this means that filmmakers will get the lowest fuel consumption and highest power-to-weight ratio of any helicopter in its class, reducing costs for filming and increasing lifting capability. Importantly, The Bell 407HP is able to lift larger loads of equipment and spend more time in the air.

Airbus AS-350 B3

Airbus As-350 B3 on a helipad

Passenger Capacity: 5 passengers

Maximum Weight Capacity: 5,225 pounds

Maximum External Load: 3,200 pounds

Maximum Speed: 139 knots (160 mph)

Maximum Range: 345 miles

The AirbusAS-350 B3 has similar maximum range, speed and weight capacities of the Bell 407HP, but its versatility and history of high performance in extreme conditions make it an ideal choice for aerial filming in remote locations with demanding weather conditions or challenging flying dynamics.

The Airbus AS-350 B3 is a light, single-engine helicopter known for its diverse range, excellent visibility, and built-in maneuverability, outclassing all other single engine helicopters in performance and safety. Both light and strong, the Airbus AS-350 B3 is called on to perform in the most extreme conditions, rigorous heat or high altitudes, making it an ideal choice for documentary or nature film crews needing aerial shots in remote or challenging natural conditions.

For example, the Airbus AS-350 has broken world records like:

The highest-altitude takeoff and landing, performed on Mount Everest in 2005 at an altitude of 29,029 feet.

The world’s highest long-line rescue operation, executed in the Himalayas in 2013 at an altitude of 25,590 feet.

A key advantage for aerial filmmaking crews, the Airbus AS-350 B3 features a wide cabin that receives low levels of vibration. The cabin’s stability makes operating camera equipment and filming far easier than similar helicopters, which may provide some challenge in executing clean, impeccable shots.

Bell 206B-3

Bell 206-B3 on a helipad with a city background

Passenger Capacity: 4 passengers

Maximum Weight Capacity: 3,200 pounds

Maximum Speed: 120 knots (139 mph)

Maximum Range: 300 miles

Known for its reliability, sturdiness and unparalleled record for safety, the Bell 206B-3 is among the most exceptional turbine helicopters ever built. With a proven track record and low operating costs, the Bell 206B-3 is among our most popular aircraft and a economical, cost-friendly option for film crews.

The Bell 206B-3 isn’t the hefitest or longest range helicopter in our fleet, which makes it an ideal choice for local and smaller scale aerial shots. Filmmaking crews engaged in aerial filming for commercials, advertisements, music videos or smaller scale projects will find that the Bell 206B-3 far outpaces the advantages of drone usage, while providing a more streamlined and cost-effective option for helicopter chartering.

By far the most popular helicopter choice for reliability, flexibility and safety, the Bell 206B-3 features:

Bell 206L-3

Bell 206 L-3 on a landing strip

Passenger Capacity: 6 passengers

Maximum Weight Capacity: 4,100 pounds

Maximum Speed: 130 knots (150 mph)

Maximum Range: 345 miles

The Bell 206L-3 is the stretch version of the Bell 206-B3, meaning it’s slightly larger with higher passenger and lift capabilities, and is well loved for its impeccable design and performance. Reliably smooth and efficient, the Bell 206L-3 is among the safest and most popular turbine helicopters in the world. With capabilities originally designed for military use, it’s primarily utilized today for commercial and corporate operations and is an ideal choice for aerial film crews.

The Bell 206L-3 features all of the classic, reliable, and efficient capabilities of the Bell 206B-3, but its larger cabin size means that the Bell 206L-3 can accommodate two additional passengers, for a total of six onboard members. For film crews that require greater onboard support and crew oversight, the Bell 206B-3 may be an ideal candidate, since its stable and spacious cabin can accommodate larger cameras and film crews.

Specifically, the Bell 206L-3 features interior dimensions of:

Contract Helicopter Express for all of your aerial filmmaking and cinematography needs.

Helicopter Express has been providing film solutions to producers in Atlanta and the southeast for 25 years. Helicopter Express’ diverse fleet and SAG-carded pilots are fully equipped to handle all aerial production needs, especially in the booming movie production city of Atlanta.

All of these aerial filming helicopters—the Bell 407HP, Airbus AS-350 B3, Bell 206B-3 and Bell 206 L3—are available in our fleet, and our staff of experienced pilots and crew are all trained and experienced in working with world-class film crews.

If you’re filming outside of Atlanta, Helicopter Express will come to you.

While we’re an Atlanta-based chartering company, we offer aerial cinematography services to film productions around the country, and our company regularly charters from locations in Georgia, Wyoming, Texas, Florida and New York.

Make us your go-to team.

Our highly skilled pilots have the experience and equipment needed to rise to any challenge. When you need experts you can trust, give us a call.