Helicopters and Airplanes work on the same basic principle of generating lift because of airflow. But helicopters may seem a lot more dangerous than airplanes, right? Well, that thing is wrong. Although airplanes are getting safer day by day, a helicopter is much safer when it comes to landing without power.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Tweet:

In July 2015, Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted the following- “An airplane whose engine fails is a glider. A helicopter whose engine fails is a brick.” Then this created a messy situation. Twitter came in and did its best: They roasted him with facts.

A Greater Chance Of Survival:

Well if you are in a helicopter there is a greater chance of survival when the engine fails as compared to an airplane because helicopters are specifically designed to land safely in case of an engine cease in midflight safely, often times with no damage at all!!


Landing a helicopter without power is a part of the training of helicopter pilots to get their license (To be fair, they don’t shut the power off entirely, just in case. That way, the vehicle can be throttled back up quickly in case of emergency.) The saviour of the game is autorotation.

source: scienceabc.com

There’s a reason those little seed pods that glide down in graceful spirals from trees are called helicopters. A helicopter landing without power using autorotation works in a similar way. When the helicopter is climbing in altitude, the pitch (tilt) of the blades is designed to keep them spinning with the help of the air underneath. If the engine fails mid-air then the pilot is trained to control the pitch of the blades and readjust it in order to catch the moving air beneath it. This is called as autorotation. This is called so because the moving air will keep the powerless blades automatically moving the same way the wind can keep a pinwheel moving.

If in a case where the wings are jammed and cannot rotate, the helicopter would indeed drop like a rock. Technically, you’re right there, Neil. But for anyone who has undergone through the helicopter pilot training, will land the helicopter down to the ground with a smooth landing.

For understanding the physics behind “Autorotation” see the video below:




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