When it comes to aircraft, the sleek lines and lightning-fast speeds of airplanes can easily amaze people. Bulky, oddly-shaped helicopters rarely incite the same kinds of feelings. Once you learn about what helicopters can do, though, you might think twice the next time you see one!
Unlike airplanes, helicopters feature spinning wings called blades or rotors on top. As a helicopter's blades spin, they create a force called lift that allows the helicopter to rise into the air. A helicopter's rotors perform the same function as an airplane's wings.
Helicopters can do many things that airplanes cannot. For example, helicopters can move straight up or down and hover in the air without moving. They can also fly backwards and sideways. They can even take off or land without a runway!
These capabilities make helicopters ideal for many tasks. They've been used by the military for many years to move troops, deliver supplies and serve as flying ambulances. Their mobility allows helicopters to get to people in hard-to-reach places, such as mountains and oceans.
Helicopters are also used often by the media to report on breaking news and traffic. Because of their ability to hover and land without a runway, helicopters are ideal for moving large objects. They can also be used to carry large loads of water to fight forest fires.
The father of the modern helicopter is Igor Sikorsky, a Russian aeronautical engineer who later came to the United States. He first filed a patent for a helicopter design in 1931. The first working prototype of his design didn't take flight until eight years later, though.
Think you'd like to fly a helicopter some day? We think you can do it! It will take quite a bit of training, though. Flying helicopters is a lot harder than flying airplanes. Did you realize you need both hands and both feet to fly a helicopter successfully?