I made the comment earlier that helicopters are safer than airplanes. That's a statement that takes most people, particularly the fixed-wing drivers, by surprise!
I'll tell you why I think it's true, but first let me remind you that I fly both. My last logbook entry puts me over the mark of having two full years of flight time under my belt! That's hard for me to imagine......two full years being supported by air flowing over a wing!
The lion's share of that time is in something with a rotary-wing. But about 1,000 of those hours are in airplanes, both single, and twin engine.
"But what if the rotor falls off?" That's one I hear a lot, from folks that know almost nothing about aviating. The truth is, the likelihood of the rotor falling off a helicopter is about the same as pulling the wing off an airplane......not very.
Consider this: An airplane cannot, while it is flying and under control, go slower than its stall speed. And that is important. In an emergency landing, when the airplane wheels touch the ground, they will be traveling at or above the airplane's stall speed. Depending on the airplane, that will be 50 m.p.h. or above........ maybe considerably above. The airplane I have logged most of my time in stalled at 60, so I normally approached at about 65. Run into something stationary at that speed, and you're gonna know it!
If the engine begins to make interesting noises on an airplane, the pilot will grab the map and start looking for the nearest airport. Should the front fan quit turning, he'll be lookin' for the longest piece of flat, unobstructed real estate he can find!
Now, do this for me. Imagine again that you are at altitude in a helicopter. Point your finger straight beneath you. That's where you can land if the helicopter's engine begins to stutter.
And should everything get really quiet around you, the helicopter can "autorotate".......like the Maple seed we talked about in an earlier post, only as we approach the ground, we can slow the helicopter to a stop, and also apply "pitch" or angle of attack to the main rotor to slow our vertical speed.
Done properly, an autorotation can be done to an area the size of a tennis court.
So emergencies, and for that matter, marginal weather, are a lot less stressful in the helicopter.
If I need to get from point "A" to point "B" quickly, my weapon of choice will be the airplane, because of speed, and cost.
But if I want to fly for relaxation and fun, give me the helicopter ANY DAY!