If a plane’s engine fails, you’d think (or like to think) its aerodynamic properties could glide you down to safety. Helicopters, on the other hand, are pretty clunky-looking things. So if you turned off the engine mid-flight, you’d probably expect the results to be pretty messy.
Neil deGrasse Tyson posted a tweet last year saying something along those lines, “FYI: An airplane whose engine fails is a glider. A helicopter whose engine fails is a brick.” Knowing a thing or two about helicopters, Destin Sandlin from the SmarterEveryDay YouTube channel decided to enlist the help of some experienced helicopter pilots to prove deGrasse Tyson wrong.
After enjoying a cruise around the stunning lakes of British Columbia, they go on to demonstrate how to safely land a helicopter when its motor has failed using a technique called “autorotation.” Using this technique, Gerry Friesen – a helicopter pilot with a whopping 16,000 flight hours under his belt – even believes landing a failed helicopter is safer than landing an airplane with a busted engine.
Of course, deGrasse Tyson does have a point. If the propellers stop working, the helicopter would drop like a brick. However, if the propellers are still moving, then it’s possible to land safely.
As Destin explains in the video: "If the rotor blade quits turning you are going to fall like a brick – but helicopter pilots have a physics trick to keep that from happening." All it requires is a simple lever and a hell of a lot of practice. Check it out for yourself in the video below.