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10 Facts About Helicopters You Probably Don’t Know

a bird flying in the air

1. The Coast Guard trained pigeons to assist in finding people lost at sea. They sat in a dome attached to a helicopter, pressing a lever after spotting life preservers or debris. They had a 90% success rate in initial trials.

2. Australia’s largest bird of prey, the wedge-tailed eagle, is so territorial it will attack helicopters and small planes to defend its nest sites.

a bird flying in the air

3. In 1986, a French woman taught herself how to fly a helicopter, rented one, flew it over a prison, and plucked her bank robber husband off the prison roof!

4. The Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988) saw the only confirmed air-to-air helicopter battles in history.

5. In 1986, the United Way released 1.5 million balloons into the Cleveland sky to raise money for charity. The balloons were so thick that Coast Guard helicopters couldn’t reach an overturned boat, resulting in the death of two fishermen.

a building with smoke coming out of it

6. Michael Durant was taken the prisoner in Mogadishu in 1993. He was tortured for 11 days until he heard a helicopter playing “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC. His superiors knew it was his favorite song, so they had rigged a helicopter with a loudspeaker and flown over the city looking for him.

7. Bill Gates rented out every hotel room on the island of Lanai, Hawaii, and chartered all nearby helicopters to not fly for the day for his wedding.

a group of people posing for the camera

8. In 1975, $10 million worth of Huey helicopters had to be pushed off the flight deck of the USS Midway and into the sea to make way for the emergency landing of an aircraft with Vietnamese evacuees on board.

a group of people standing around a plane

9. On April 1st, 1974 in Alaska, Oliver Bikar set a 100-tire fire alight inside the crater of extinct volcano Mount Edgecumbe. Upon arrival, an investigating Coast Guard helicopter found April Fool’s written in 50 ft high letters.

10. In 2009, a Japanese whaling fleet used a sonic weapon against a helicopter carrying a camera crew of conservation activists. The conservationists noted that their helicopter was also equipped with a similar sonic weapon, but had only used it thusfar to play a recording of “Ride of the Valkyries”.

a large ship in a body of water


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