We’re going to say this up front:
We aren’t planning on doing any kind of crazy chases or clandestine escapes to some country with a non-extradition agreement. But we will say that at Longhorn Helicopters, we love choppers, and love seeing their creative use in movies and TV.
To get you in the mood to take to the skies on your own memorable adventure, here are four different observations about helicopters in Hollywood:
1. Jurassic Park Is The Best
While there have been a bunch of sequels, a reboot, and a sequel to the reboot, nothing beats the original Jurassic Park. Nobody quite knew what to expect from this, the first film adapted from Michael Crichton’s bestselling novel.
Who could forget the scene early in the film where Jurassic Park founder John Hammond whisks the scientists to Isla Nublar in his InGen helicopter? With the Agusta A-109A helicopter soaring over magical views of the island (actually, it was Hawaii) in the scene and the whimsical musical genius of John Williams’ epic “Journey to the Island” serving as soundtrack, it was the most euphoric moment in the movie (you know, before all that bad stuff with dinosaurs happened).
According to RotaryAction.com, here are some well-tread cliches Hollywood deploys when using helicopters in films:
Apparently out of control or damaged, a helicopter flies over a hill, or behind a landmark. Once it’s out of view, there’s a huge explosion to suggest the aircraft has crashed. Few movies have the budget to afford model effects, or write-off even a mock-up helicopter.
The escaping hero and sidekick or partner climb aboard an unattended helicopter. One asks the other, “Can you fly this thing?” “No… but hang on!” comes the reply, and then the machine performs a decidedly wobbly takeoff.
In pursuit of a road vehicle, the hero – or his stuntman, at least – jumps down from a low-flying helicopter onto or into the wildly swerving vehicle as it races along a conveniently deserted highway.
In the movies, a stolen helicopter only ever carries two minutes of aviation fuel. In such incidents, the hero has to perform a dangerous emergency landing – a survivable technique called autorotation – while any machine piloted by a villain invariably blows up.
By far the most used and/or abused rotorcraft cliche: in movies and TV is the sound effect of a helicopter passing ‘overhead’, without a chopper ever being visible on-screen. In stereo, it ‘travels’ from one side/ speaker(s) to the other, accentuating the Doppler effect – a particular audio trick notable in those Dolby adverts featuring a computer-animated helicopter.
An entire generation of helicopter enthusiasts emerged out of the late 1950s syndicated television show, Whirlybirds. Airing 111 episodes between 1956 and 1960, the show followed leads Chuck Martin and P.T. Moore as they took to the skies in their “whirlybirds.”
“Whirlybirds was about two helicopter pilots, friends as well as colleagues, who respond to all kinds of emergencies when the helicopter was first being used for difficult rescues and the tracking and pursuit of criminals. … From what I remember it was not repetitive at all with all kinds of people in distress in all types of situations being rescued by these guys. Plus they were very effective at chasing the bad guys with their ‘birds’ eye view.’ Highly recommended and fondly remembered.”
RotaryAction calls Whirlybirds “the show that started it all” and the site’s founder credits the show with sparking his interest in helicopters.
4. Every Heli’s a Huey?
The biggest flying star in movies, used over and over again, is the UH-1D Iroquois, also known as the “Huey.” It’s been the go-to for Hollywood copters, having made appearances in such films as The Green Berets, James Bond: Diamonds Are Forever, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Air America, Cliffhanger, Rambo 2, Dante’s Peak, We Were Soldiers, Superman Returns and Kong: Skull Island–among many others.
TVTropes shares why this seems to be the only helicopter directors want to use:
“Every time the heroes in an action movie or TV show have to go somewhere by helicopter, chances are they’ll be doing it in a member of the Bell Huey family. This trope is largely justified in Vietnam War movies: the UH-1D Iroquois is a symbol of US involvement in Vietnam, with over 7,000 of them seeing service. As one of the few helicopters able to carry more than 1-3 passengers, it’s a natural choice for The Squad – it’s hard to roll out after a Lock and Load Montage if the chopper you rented is a MD-500 and only fits two actors. Also, most choppers’ looks don’t convey the tough, militaristic feel quite like a Huey does–their very presence suggests a military movie in the way that another, less easily-recognizable helicopter might not.”
While you might not be involved in a dangerous pursuit or escape from beasts, we can all agree that riding in a helicopter is nothing short of dramatic. Book your cinematic Fort Worth helicopter tour today.