Humans have always had a deep fascination with flying. Even thousands of years ago, our ancestors had entire mythologies based around the ability to fly, and birds and other air creatures were closely associated with gods and other entities.
It’s only been in the last century that we’ve been able to take our imaginations and turn them into real, physical crafts that could take us into the sky for the first time ever. Flying has become a normal part of the modern world, and while huge advancements have been made, most flying is done by either helicopters and planes.
Their differences might seem fairly obvious at first, but rotorcraft and planes have a deeply tied history that spans the better part of the last hundred years – with some key differences that set the two apart.
Helicopters use a different set of aerodynamics to achieve thrust and mobility. They rely on at least two different sets of rotors, one to give the helicopter the ability to leave the ground, and the second to stop it from spinning wildly out of control. This makes helicopters harder to operate than most planes.
Planes, on the other hand, are all about balance, which makes them inherently more stable than helicopters. Planes are also easier to keep under control for this reason, and a part of why they are easier to learn to fly.
This is perhaps the most apparent difference between the two types of vehicles. Rotorcraft make use of their large rotors to generate lift, which is why said rotors are almost always set on the top of the craft. This also gives them the ability to hover when they are sitting in a level position.
Planes used fixed wings with props or jet engines to generate the lift, pulling enormous volumes of air through and over the wings. Once enough air is flowing, the plane can lift off the ground and fly in a horizontal fashion.
Commercial jet planes are considered the safest means of transport in the world, with only one death out of almost 3 million boardings every year, and most people are happy to read a book, play games, enjoy NZ rugby bets, or even sleep while flying.
Helicopters are generally safer than most other forms of transport, but unlike planes, helicopters don’t have quite as many safety features baked in, and if one rotor is to fail, the helicopter will either drop down immediately or spin out of control.
Helicopters are typically much more expensive to purchase, operate, and maintain than other kinds of aircraft. They have many moving parts, and maintenance can be incredibly complex, which is a part of the reason that there are fewer helicopters in service than planes.
Planes, thanks to fewer moving parts and fixed wing lift generation means that they are cheaper both to purchase as well as to keep in operation for long periods of time.