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4 Interesting Facts About Helicopters

Going up in a helicopter is certainly an interesting experience. Many people are a bit intimidated by the idea, at least on their first ride, and this is in part because they do not know a whole lot about helicopters. The more you know, the more confident you will feel — so here are four interesting facts about helicopters.

1. They can take off and land vertically.

If you have ever been on an airplane or watched them land on the runway, you know they need a lot of space to take off and land. They need to get up to a certain speed while on land before they can lift off. Helicopters take off and land completely differently. They can take off completely vertically, lifting straight into the air, and they can land in the same manner. This is one reason why the military and other operations use helicopters for rescue missions and such. They can land and take off on rough terrain, which is where people tend to get lost and require rescue!

2. They are considered "rotorcrafts."

Rotorcrafts are a subset of aircraft that are powered by large rotors. These rotors spin, creating thrust that allows the craft to lift into the air and then be propelled forward. Most helicopters have two rotors. The one on top of the craft lifts it into the air during takeoff, and the one in the back powers up to propel the helicopter forward while it is in the air.

3. They move much slower than planes.

There are now airplanes that can travel significantly faster than the speed of sound. Helicopters are much slower -- even the fastest ones. The world's fastest helicopter can travel about 160 miles per hour, and you are not going to go anywhere near that fast on your average helicopter ride. As it turns out, rotors can only propel a flying piece of metal so quickly!

4. They were invented in the 1930s.

The world's first helicopter took off in September of 1939. It was a military aircraft with a three-blade rotor. Helicopters became increasingly common for military use over the following decade, and eventually they caught on for civilian use -- especially rescue operations. Many new innovations make today's helicopters safer and quieter than the ones of yesteryear.

These facts about helicopters should serve as reassurance that you are in a safe, well-made aircraft. Enjoy the ride!