Fun Fact Friday: Helicopters

Did you know that the one of the earliest known technical designs for what would eventually become known as the helicopter was created by Leonardo da Vinci? It’s true! It has been described as the “aerial screw”, because its rotor resembled the threads of a screw, minus the point.

Many attempts at vertical flight we attempted after da Vinci’s 1480s design, the first successful controlled experiments (happening only a few feet above the ground) didn’t happen until after the year 1900. Many inventors tried their hand at the concept, including the venerable Thomas Edison, but no inventor had any real success with it until around the 1920s.

Here are some other fun facts about helicopters:

  • Contrary to popular belief, helicopters don’t simply drop from the sky if the engine stalls. The inertia of the blades continues to provide lift, giving a skilled pilot valuable moments to attempt an emergency landing.
  • As referenced in a previous Fun Fact Friday, actor Harrison Ford is a certified helicopter pilot, and has worked with the Teton County Search and Rescue, in Wyoming, flying rescue missions.
  • Helicopters are often used to fight forest fires, and are able to drop many gallons of water on a blaze.
  • Helicopters have even been used to carry houses, such the “Skycrane”, depicted above.

Want to learn more? Check out Helicopters, on Discovery Education Streaming!

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