20 Surprising Things Most People Don’t Know About Helicopters
Helicopters are an interesting mode of transport and either leave a passenger extremely terrified or have them smiling from ear to ear. The helicopter is different from a plane and is considered to be a variant of a rotorcraft. For instance, the rotors allow the flying machine to take off and land vertically as well as fly forward, backward and laterally while fixed-wing airplanes are unable to do so.
These days helicopters are found all over the world and can be used in a variety of situations. That’s right, helicopters come in useful in the military, at war, to help with emergency situations and also tour guides and tourism. So, let’s dig a little deeper and find out 20 surprising things most people don’t know about helicopters.
20 HELICOPTERS ARE SAFER THAN AIRPLANES
One of the most common questions with regards to helicopters is “are they safer than airplanes?” Research shows that smaller airplanes such as private jets and air taxis as well as civilian and army helicopters are more accident-prone than larger commercial flights. Yes, in 2015 there were zero fatal plane accidents that involved commercial airlines in the United States but a whopping 415 fatalities with smaller aircraft. There are a number of reasons for smaller airplanes being a lot more dangerous than bigger ones, with weather conditions and inexperienced pilots playing major roles.
19 THEY CAN TRAVEL FURTHER THAN MOST PEOPLE REALIZE
Most people believe that helicopters are just small planes that can travel short distances for short periods of time. However, helicopters can actually go pretty far and often surprise people with how far they can travel.
In other words, a standard helicopter can get you from London to Paris in just 90 minutes. And the larger beasts? The bigger boys can sometimes travel a maximum of 600 miles, which would get you from London to Paris and back with a few extra minutes to eat your baguette and croissant.
18 THEY CAN BE FASTER THAN MOST PEOPLE REALIZE
Helicopters aren’t really known for their speed but they can go surprisingly pretty fast. In fact, one of the most common questions that helicopter pilots are asked is how fast a helicopter can fly with most expecting them to reach the same speeds are fixed-wing aircraft. However, just like airplanes, it all depends on the size, the passenger capacity and a number of other facts. Plus, army helicopters tend to be much faster than helicopters for public use due to the amount of money that has gone into making them. Overall, each helicopter is extremely different with some designed for speed and some designed for passenger capacity,
17 THE FIRST KNOWN INVENTORS CAME FROM CHINA
Not many people know that it was the Chinese who invented the helicopter, or at least were the first to design it. Yes, the earliest reference for vertical flight comes from the east, with China first mentioning the idea back in 400 BC.
The game was extremely popular and was mentioned in a book by author Ge Hong. Designs that were similar to the Chinese chopper game were seen years later in Renaissance paintings, then popped up again in the 18th and 19th century.
16 LEONARDO DA VINCI DESIGNED HIS OWN HELICOPTER
Although Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t the first to think vertical flight, he was definitely important to the idea’s evolution. In the late fifteenth century, da Vinci began sketching ideas of a flying machine that looked an awful lot like the modern day helicopter. It is not certain if da Vinci made the product but he most certainly designed and mapped out every single detail with extreme precision. In fact, da Vinci clearly knew what he was talking about and wrote next to the designs, “If this instrument made with a screw be well made – that is to say, made of linen of which the pores are stopped up with starch and be turned swiftly, the said screw will make its spiral in the air and it will rise high.”
15 HELICOPTERS HAVE A NUMBER OF LIMITATIONS
Although the helicopter might be a modern day engineering marvel there are still a number of things that it cannot do. For instance, it is advised that helicopters stay on the ground during bad weather with high winds and torrential rain, as both are major hindrances on the machine. Plus, helicopters aren’t that great in the dark with them sometimes being quite difficult to navigate. Furthermore, although they can go quite fast and stay in the air for a reasonable amount of time it is often not enough with planes being the preferred choice of transport when it comes to longer expeditions.
14 HELICOPTERS ARE BETTER IN EMERGENCIES THAN FIXED WINGED AIRPLANES
Helicopters are usually used for emergencies and can be a great mode of transport when saving a person’s life. For instance, a helicopter is able to navigate much better than an aircraft, therefore, it is much better in an emergency situation.
Plus, helicopters can hover, which makes them perfect for saving those in sticky situations such as being lost at sea or on the side of a mountain. Furthermore, helicopters are able to fly backward and sideways, again making them ideal for rescue missions and difficult positioning.
13 THEY HAVE MANY NICKNAMES
Helicopters are cool and are some of the most amazing machines on the planet. Not only that, but they also have cool nicknames with each name differing depending on the country. The word “helicopter” originally came from the Greek word “helix” which means spiral and the word pteron which means “wing.” In the Western world, most people refer to the helicopter as a chopper, due to rotors that “chop” the air. Other nicknames include, “copter,” “whirlybird,” and “windmill,” as well as “hook” and “heli.” However, the army, the navy, and the airforce also use their own slang words with regards to the helicopter, with the navy calling it the “helo”.
12 NASA WANTS A HELICOPTER ON MARS
What’s cooler than a helicopter? A helicopter on mars of course. Yes, Nasa recently revealed that they have plans to send an unmanned robotic helicopter to Mars. The machine will travel with the Mars 2020 rover mission and is scheduled to launch as soon as 2020. How amazing is that?
Designs of the helicopter have already been released with Nasa claiming that the helicopter will be an important asset to the mars information team.
Nasa also states that the helicopter would fly no more than 3 minutes per day with constant contact and communication with the Mars rover.
11 YOU CAN CIRCLE THE EARTH IN A HELICOPTER
The Spirit of Texas is a Bell 206L-1 Long Ranger II and has the great distinction of being the first helicopter to complete an around the world flight. The chopper was modified before taking the trip with modifications taking just three weeks. By the end of the customization, an extra 151-gallon fuel tank was attached as well as a Loral radar and a modified heater and defroster. The helicopter departed in September 1982 carrying pilots Ross Perot Jr. and Jay Coburn. Overall the trip consisted of 260,000 miles, crossed 26 countries and took a lengthy 246.5 hours. Thankfully there were no incidents or mechanical problems during the flight with the two pilots landing safely.
10 THEY ARE NOISY AND SHAKE A LOT
One reason why people are so scared of helicopters is the noise. Yes, helicopters can be extremely noisy especially when taking off. So what makes them so loud? Most of the noise is generated by the chopper’s main rotor which spins aggressively and creates a large amount of air pressure.
This then creates numerous vibrations which cause violent and horrific sounds. Plus, helicopters are also known to shake, mostly due to the limited size, and nobody wants to shake while high in the air do they?
9 THERE ARE TAKING OVER THE WORLD
Helicopters are extremely common all over the world, with a number of countries owning several flying machines. In fact, recent results suggested that there were currently over 360,000 helicopters in the world with the majority of them used in the army. That’s right, according to www.helis.com, there are 29,700 army helicopters with, 33.5% in North America, 21.1% in Europe, 16.6% in former the Soviet Union, 13.6% in Asia/Pacific region, 6.3% in the Middle East, 4.5% in Africa and 4.4% in South America. However, there are also numerous civilian choppers with 46.1% in North America, 18.2% in Europe, 12.7% in the former Soviet Union, 12.3% in Asia/Pacific region, 7.2% in South America, 3.4% in the Middle East and 0.1% in Africa.
8 THEY ARE GOOD AT SAVING PEOPLE
Airplanes are great but let’s face it, when you are in an emergency you are going to want a helicopter to help fish you out. What makes them so good at saving people? Helicopters are extremely versatile and can move in many different ways. This versatility makes it extremely easy for a helicopter to swerve through tricky positions and move around.
One of the most ingenious things about helicopters is their ability to hover, which again helps with small enclaves and tiny spaces.
Emergency helicopters are also kitted out with the latest technology which makes them great in a variety of weather conditions. Furthermore, the bigger the chopper the more people, rafts, and safety equipment you can fit inside it.
7 THEY CAN’T CARRY MANY PEOPLE
Helicopters aren’t known for their size and are mostly unable to carry a large number of people. A standard helicopter can carry up five people which also includes the pilot and the co-pilot. However, some choppers can carry a huge amount of people with army helicopters serving as a prime example. For instance, the Mil Mi-26, otherwise known as Halo, is the world’s largest helicopter and is used in nearly 20 countries. The chopper can carry a whopping 80 troops or in some cases 60 stretchers. However, there have been incidents where the helicopter carried an even more staggering 150 troops.
6 THEY CAN BE ATTACKED BY BIRDS
Most types of eagles can be extremely territorial and regard helicopters as predators rather than just flying machines minding their own business. That’s right, footage over the years has caught a number of eagles attacking helicopters, small aircraft, and even drones, with the fear that the machines are attacking them and their babies. The Australian wedge-tailed eagle particularly hates helicopters and is often filmed or caught attempting to scare or attack helicopters. Interestingly, the birds can fly up to 6,000 feet high and are in no way scared of the larger machines in the sky.
5 THE STRANGEST NAME FOR A BOLT
“The Jesus Nut” is one of the most important components of a helicopter and was coined by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. The Vietnam war was one of the first major ones to use helicopters, with soldiers told to “pray to Jesus” if the nut ended up breaking.
The term stuck and people now use it all over the world, with the word now common in aviation vocabulary.
So what exactly is it? The name refers to the nut which holds the main rotor together. Yes, the Jesus nut is basically the most significant thing on a helicopter and going without it means catastrophic consequences.
4 HELICOPTERS HAVE BROKEN PEOPLE OUT OF JAIL
Believe it or not, helicopters have been used to break people out of jail numerous times over the past few years. One of the first instances was the escape of inmate Joel David Kaplan who in 1971 used a helicopter to escape from the Santa Martha Acatitla. The escape was a success and Kaplan even managed to escape across the border, back to his home in New York. However, it is France that holds the record of helicopter escapes with a whopping eleven incidents. The most notable came in 1986 when the wife of notorious bank robber Michel Vaujour taught herself to fly a helicopter. She then flew over her husband’s prison in Paris and plucked him off the roof. Now that’s love.
3 THE UNITED STATES HAS THE MOST HELICOPTERS
The United States has the most helicopters of any country in the world. Yes, American army helicopters are most certainly the real deal with the USA showcasing a powerful and confident fleet. Most of these military choppers are rigged with autocannons and machine guns as well as rockets and missiles. In addition, they are fitted with an armored outside shell which protects them from potential enemy attacks. After the United States, Russia, India, and China top the list of the world’s countries with the most helicopters. However, they still have a long way to go if they want to catch up.
2 YOU CAN TAKE A HELICOPTER TO THE TOP OF MOUNT EVEREST
Believe it or not one of the most common questions with regards to helicopters is whether or not you can take them to the top of Mount Everest. In short, the answer is yes, but like all things, there are a number of exceptions.
Firstly, a helicopter has limitations with height certainly being one of them.
Most choppers are only designed to reach around 10,000 ft, therefore, the 29,029 ft Mount Everest can be rather difficult, not to mention dangerous. To get around this, Everest choppers are designed with larger rotors and bigger engines which help lift the things through the thinning air pressure.
1 PRINCE WILLIAM IS A TRAINED HELICOPTER PILOT
Prince William, otherwise known as the Duke of Cambridge, is the second in line for the English throne and one of the most well-liked members of the Royal Family. That’s right, William and his brother Harry have both made a conscious effort to remain normal throughout their very “not normal” existence and have sought employment in order to stay grounded. In 2008, William completed his pilot training and became a full-time helicopter pilot for the RAF Search and Rescue Force in 2009. Sadly, in 2013 William had to give up his dream job in order to serve queen (his grandmother) and country by embarking on state visits and events.
Sources: pinterest.com, businessinsider.com, youtube.com, newyorkpost.com.