Facts About Helicopters

You may have once heard the whoomp-whoomp-whoomp of a helicopter flying overhead.

These powerful “flying-vehicles” are also called choppers, whirly-birds, and helos.

We depend on them for many things. Read on to discover all about the helicopter.

We will be exploring the history of the chopper, what it is used for, and much more.

So let’s fly to new heights and discover the world of the helicopter.



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What is a Helicopter?

A helicopter is a type of airplane known as a vertical takeoff and landing craft (VTOL). It can have a long body or it can be short and compact.

The helicopter does not have wings like an airplane. Instead, it has long blades or rotors. These are attached to a shaft in the engine. It also has a tail on it with smaller rotors. The pilot uses a foot pedal and two specialized pitch sticks to control the direction of the helicopter.

Ponder This: The helicopter is the only aircraft that can do what? Find the answer in More Freaky Factoids.

The History of Helicopters

The idea of the helicopter has been around for ages, but it took some time to bring it to be. Check out the long history of the chopper.

  • 1100 – Chinese invented a flying toy that had some of the same principles as the helicopter.
  • 1483 – Leonardo Da Vinci had sketches of a helicopter-like flying machine.
  • 1784 – two French men (Launoy and Bienvenu) built a feathered-model helicopter.
  • 1843 – Sir George Cayley invented the steam-driven chopper.
  • 1907 – Paul Cornu built a full-sized helicopter. It cleared the ground for a few minutes, but remained tied down by ropes.
  • 1916 – Professor Theodore von Karman and Lieutenant Stefan Petroczy built a working helicopter. However, because it didn’t carry passengers, it was not officially recognized.
  • 1931 – Gerald P. Herrick converted an airplane into a helicopter. It was able to land at a steep angle.
  • 1938 – the German-made Focke Achgelis Fa 61 was the first official helicopter.
  • 1939 – Igor Sikorsky made the first practical flight in the United States.

Ponder This: In 1982 two men flew around the world in a helicopter. How long did this trip take?

It’s All About the “Lift”

In order for a helicopter to take flight, it must achieve “lift.” Normal airplanes have wings that are slightly curved on top and flat on the bottom. This allows the air to flow faster over the top of the wing than the bottom. As the air pushes up from the bottom, the plane is being lifted. However, since helicopters do not have wings, they must get their lift another way. This is where those giant blades or rotors come into play. These “spinning-wings” generate a tremendous amount of air. Once all this air is circulating around the rotors, the helicopter is able to gain the lift it needs to take-off and fly.

Ponder This: Do you think a helicopter can move faster than an airplane?

What Are Helicopters Used For?

You might be surprised at all the things a helicopter is used for. Check out the following list to see which ones you knew.

  • Search and Rescue – getting people out of hard-to-reach areas.
  • Tourism – taking people on aerial flights.
  • Military – move their troops or drop off supplies
  • News – helicopters fly over cities to check out breaking news or traffic reports.
  • Photography & Video – movies, television and photographers use a helicopter to get better and surprising shots.
  • Air Ambulance – people who are seriously ill and need to be transferred quickly to another hospital.
  • Fighting Fires – used to carry and drop large amounts of water or other firefighting substances onto a burning fire.
  • Cargo – can carry large loads of cargo. A helicopter can land on aircraft carriers or into other hard-to-reach locations.

Ponder This: What far-away planet is NASA studying the helicopter for use on?


More Freaky Factoids

We haven’t whirled past all the fun just yet. Here are the answers to your ponder these questions and more freaky facts. Check it out.

Did you know…

  • the helicopter is the only aircraft that can move forward, backward, side-to-side, and hover? It can also land and take off in small, tight spaces.
  • it took 29 days, 3 hours, 8 minutes and 13 seconds for H. Ross Perot, Jr. and J.W. Coburn to circle the entire Earth in a helicopter? They broke the World’s Record.
  • helicopters are generally slower than most airplanes?
  • NASA is studying the helicopter to see if it could be used on Mars?
  • helicopters that are used for carrying heavy cargo loads have two blades? These are horizontal and spin in opposite directions.
  • if you were to ride in a helicopter you would notice it is very noisy and it shakes a lot?
  • the fastest helicopter can reach speeds up to 400 kilometers-per-hour (248 miles-per-hour)?

Now that you have learned all these fascinating facts, you can whirl on over to your friends and family and share your new-found knowledge.

Who knows?

You might just become known as “Captain Chopper.”