During the oil boom of the 60s and 70s they were – and still are – the workhorses ferrying rig workers on their commutes.
During the Vietnam War they were the equivalent of airborne tanks, taking troops to and from the front line.
In the future, it is possible that we will be using autonomous quadcopter taxis to get from place to place.
They are often associated with the wealthy.
They are things of mystery for many and you can always hear them coming.
But if anything goes wrong with them, you tend to hear about it because very few people walk away from a helicopter crash.
As yet we do not know what caused the tragic loss of the helicopter belonging to the billionaire owner of Leicester City Football Club, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Moments after taking off from the King Power Stadium it came down and five people lost their lives in the crash.
By anyone’s reckoning it was a horrific scene, made all the worse when it was finally announced that Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was amongst the victims.
Leicester City is already mourning deeply the loss of a man whose generosity and passion for his club propelled them towards being 2016 Premiership champions.
Investigations into what caused the accident are now proceeding and the AAIP will be forensic in its approach to establishing what happened.
Helicopter crashes are rare, but they make the headlines all too often when they happen.
Some years ago I spoke to a pilot who told me that he accepted the risks of a crash while in the same breath telling me that he considered himself to be far more at risk journeying to and from the airfield by car. Statistically he had a point.
Flying in a helicopter is in many ways a strange experience. In the first instance, occupants are dependent on hanging underneath a single shaft of wildly rotating blades, seemingly corkscrewing their way through the air.
Countering the fuselage’s desire to rotate in the opposite direction is the smaller tail rotor.
To achieve flight requires the skills of a highly qualified pilot capable of controlling all of their limbs independently while at the same time scanning the instruments and keeping in radio contact with others. It’s quite some balancing act.
Some years ago I made a documentary about the work of the county’s air ambulance service and spent a day on shift with the crew.
With each emergency call which came in, I flew in the back of their twin jet engine Augusta 109 machine.
Take-off and landing enthralled me and I marvelled at their teamwork both airborne as well as on the ground.
The professionalism with which they went through the daily checks of their medical equipment and drugs and the aircraft in which they and their patients placed their trust was as impressive as it was essential.
Last Saturday’s crash robbed Leicester City Football Club of its owner and perhaps its most significant supporter in recent times.
Four other families were robbed too, including those of pilot Eric Swaffer and his co-pilot partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz who, like others on the aircraft, were carrying out their duties, unaware of what was ahead.
It remains to be proven, but it seems that in their last moments they may have saved the lives of many others and should be remembered accordingly.