On the hunt for some jaw-dropping helicopter facts? Get in the chopper! We guarantee these fun facts about helicopters will leave your head spinning!
The helicopter is one of the most versatile forms of transportation ever invented, and every year this extraordinary feat of mechanical engineering saves thousands of lives.
Daring sea rescues, fighting forest fires, pulling stranded hikers from mountaintops, and life or death medical evacuations, the helicopter is downright legendary at helping people at their most intense time of need.
But what else is there to learn about the whirlybird? Keep reading these fun facts about helicopters to find out!
What do helicopters have to do with these three animals: goats, hummingbirds, and wedge-tailed eagles? We can tell you right now, it ain’t good for the goats.
Some of our favorite helicopter facts we uncovered include a helicopter on Mars, Leonardo Da Vinci, Mount Everest and the Jesus nut. And we’ve only scratched the surface.
Have we got you intrigued to learn more about the impressive helicopter? We’ll discover how high a helicopter can go, how fast it can fly, and its undeniable skill of busting people out of prison!
And what do you think? Can a helicopter circumnavigate the globe? And how many refuelings would that actually take?
Keep on reading to learn all about helicopters and why they are so great.
21 Fun Facts About Helicopters
1. Such great heights
A typical helicopter can reach heights of 12,000 to 15,000 feet (3,658 to 4,572 meters). But they can go much, much higher. In fact, choppers have landed on the summit of Mt. Everest at over 29,000 feet (8,940m).
The highest a helicopter can go? An astonishing 45,000 feet (13,716m)!
2. All aboard the helicopter!
While an average-sized helicopter usually seats up to 6 passengers, military helicopters have a much larger capacity.
The Mil Mi-26 helicopter can hold up to 80 troops and 60 stretchers. In an emergency, the Mi-26 can test its limits and transport over 150 people.
3. Take this helicopter around the world
Generally used for short distances, there are a few examples of helicopters pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
In 1982, Ross Perot Jr. and J. Coburn circumnavigated the globe on a 29-day helicopter journey. They visited 26 countries and had to refuel 156 times.
4. Call me the inventor
The idea of the helicopter is an ancient one! In fact, the Chinese had sketches of the helicopter as early as 400 BC. Leonardo Da Vinci also envisioned the helicopter but never built a prototype.
The first working model of a helicopter is credited to Gustave de Ponton d’Amecourt who built a miniature steam-powered helicopter in 1861. How cool is that!?
5. It’s all about balance
When taking a helicopter tour, whatever you do, don’t lie about your weight! In order for a safe and smooth ride the weight in a helicopter needs to be distributed evenly on all sides. If the weight isn’t balanced the helicopter will list to one side causing a turbulent ride!
6. The fastest of the helicopters
Even though most helicopters are designed for maneuverability and not speed, there are some really fast ones out there! The Sikorsky X2 can get up to an unbelievable 287 miles per hour!
Think that’s impressive? Well, the record was broken in 2013 by the Eurocopter X3. It topped out at 293 miles per hour.
7. The DIY helicopter
Okay, this is one of the coolest helicopter facts. Are you good at following instructions? Because you can order a helicopter online and build it at home!
The Safari 400 helicopter takes over 500 hours to assemble. The price tag? Just under $150,000. Pretty good considering a helicopter normally costs more than $2 million!
8. A real lifesaver
Due to their unique maneuverability, helicopters are used in daring search and rescues. The Coast Guard is perhaps best known for helicopter rescues at sea.
The helicopter’s ability to hover allows rescuers to save people who have gone overboard in bad weather and cannot be rescued by boat.
9. Helicopters and wildfires
Helicopters are an important tool on the frontlines of climate events. In recent years with the increase in forest fires around the world, helicopters are key in putting out the blazes.
Enormous buckets are attached to a helicopter and it scoops water out of lakes and then drops the water onto the flames.
It isn’t always about life and death with helicopters. They can be used simply for fun too!
Many people take helicopter rides for a bird’s eye view of awe-inspiring landscapes. In the winter, heli-skiing allows skiers to experience the fresh powder of the mountaintops.
11. Close your eyes and pray
The Jesus nut is probably the most important piece of equipment on a helicopter. The simple fastener is what holds the helicopter blades in place.
It’s called the Jesus nut, because if it breaks all you can do is pray for your life. Yikes! That’s not one of the fun facts about helicopters, that’s just terrifying!
12. A helicopter on Mars
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, otherwise known as “Ginny”, is the first helicopter to fly on Mars. Ginny successfully completed the first power-controlled extraterrestrial flight by an aircraft on April 19th, 2021.
And she didn’t stop there! To date Ginny has made over 30 successful flights.
13. How many helicopters?
It probably won’t surprise you that helicopters are extremely prolific. In fact, there are estimated to be over 400,000 helicopters in service today, with most being used by the military.
Who owns the most helicopters? The countries with the largest militaries of course. The USA, China, Russia and India.
14. How do helicopters fly anyway?
A helicopter’s liftoff is achieved by its blades spinning and pushing air downwards to lift the chopper off the ground.
Once airborne, it is the tilting of the blades along with the speed of rotation that maneuvers the helicopter in different directions.
15. The helicopters of the animal kingdom
It’s not just the rhythmic hum that helicopters and hummingbirds have in common. Both mechanical bird and natural bird can move in any direction.
Up, down, left, right, forward, backwards. They also both have the ability to hover or stand still in mid-air.
16. The great escape
Here’s one of the weirdest helicopter facts that will leave you scratching your head! In 1986 a woman trained herself to fly a helicopter and then broke her husband out of prison by plucking him from the rooftop.
It doesn’t just happen in the movies. In fact, there have been over 50 successful prison breaks by helicopter!
17. Famous helicopter pilots
Getting a helicopter pilot license is no easy feat. However, many rich and famous have put in the time so they can zip around in their personal choppers. Famous helicopter pilots include Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Prince William and Tom Cruise.
18. The helicopter tycoon
Igor Sikorsky was a Russian-American aviation pioneer who built the first modern helicopter in 1939. He is known for designing the rotor configuration used by modern helicopters today. He also invented the Sikorsky R-4, the world’s first mass-produced helicopter.
19. Goats vs helicopter snipers
If you’re sensitive to goats being assassinated, stop reading now. In the 1990s, in order to save the Galapagos tortoise, 250,000 invasive goats were executed by helicopter snipers on the Galapagos Islands.
Named Project Isabela, the goat termination was successful, leading to the Galapagos Tortoise being able to thrive in its natural habitat once again.
20. Helicopters and agriculture
This is one of the coolest facts about helicopters! In wet and rainy years, farmers contract helicopter pilots to hover over their fields.
The reason for this? The wind caused by the helicopter blades whisks away the water off of grapes and cherries preventing them from splitting open or rotting
21. Why do eagles hate helicopters?
The wedge-tailed eagle is the sworn enemy of the helicopter. In fact, the Australian raptor will physically attack helicopters, because they believe the chopper is a threat to their nest. Sadly, the helicopter usually wins these battles.
Who wants more fun facts?
If you’re looking for some recommendations, these are a few of our favorite fact books to buy. We use these when planning fun trivia nights with family and friends!
Did we take you sky-high with these helicopter facts? Or are there more fun facts about helicopters that we forgot to mention? You should let us know about it in the comments below and we’ll add them to this article!