Whirl With Whirlybirds

Nation’s 'Premier Aviation Museum Dedicated To Rotary Flight History' Is In West Chester

World Helicopter Day is  Aug. 14, so in observance, the West Chester-based American Helicopter Museum and Education Center team will be giving helicopter rides from 12:30-3:30 p.m. that day on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Jan Feighner, museum public relations and membership coordinator, says this will be the group's fifth such observation, which enables them to join other similar events across the globe. World Helicopter Day was founded in 2015 by Australian Mick Cullen. "In past, local Heli Days, the Medevac teams and community dog groups, such as Chester County Seeing Eye Puppy Club, have been very popular," she recalls. 

There are an estimated 56,200 helicopters worldwide and the industry employs more than 500,000 people.

Jan says World Helicopter Day celebrates the life-saving missions and capabilities of helicopters while raising awareness of the contributions that helicopters make to society. The day also honors the diverse range of people that design, fly and support helicopters.

However, guests may turn every museum day into special Helicopter Day visits, if desired. Located across the runway from Brandywine Regional Airport, the museum’s displays include helicopters, models and archival materials. The aircraft, exhibits and video presentations depict the development and evolution of rotary wing flight in the Philadelphia region, the country, and around the world.

Aviation History Magazine staffers called this museum the “best scientific outing for kids."

Paul Taylor, educational programs manager, says the museum provides educational programs that teach and inspire visitors of all ages about the basic principles and wonders of vertical flight. "We also use rotary-wing aviation as a gateway to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Programs like Girls in Science and Technology (GIST), Science Saturdays, and STEAM Storytime provide fun, hands-on experiences that teach and inspire," he adds. 

Additionally, the museum can be rented for birthday parties and other special occasions.

Another museum offering is Adopt-a-Copter through which recipients get a certificate of adoption; a glossy photo with details about the adopted helicopter; interesting facts about helicopters; paper helicopter cut-outs; two complimentary passes to the museum and a coloring page.

Age-appropriate programs at the museum aim to provide visitors with a hands-on experience of rotary wing aviation: 

  1. Helicopter Hunt for preschoolers and first graders. 

  2. Amazing Air! Workshop for children in first through third grade.

  3. Keystone Copters: The History of Helicopters in Pennsylvania Guided Tour especially for fourth graders. 

  4. What a Drag: The Forces of Flight Experiments developed for children in grade 4, 5 and 6. 

  5. Helicopter Ground School adapted for middle and high schoolers. 

  6. Vertical Flight: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Program for adults, including high school and college groups.

Additional, upcoming special events hosted at the museum include:  Speakers’ Series Aug. 26, 7–8:30 p.m.:  Colin P. Cahoon regarding "Mended Wings, The Vietnam War Experience Through the Eyes of Ten American Purple Heart Pilots" and Star Trek Screen-Used Props and Costumes, Sept. 8 through Nov. 27.

Memberships to the museum range from $25 to $1,000. Some membership packages contain passes for museum visits and helicopter rides. 

Museum Hours:

  • Thursdays through Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday: Noon to 5 p.m.
  • Last admission: 4:30 p.m.

1220 American Boulevard, West Chester

Fun Tidbits About Choppers

  1. Around 1480, Leonardo da Vinci designed a machine resembling a helicopter, which can be described as an ‘aerial screw.'
  2. The first working helicopter is believed to have been the Focke-Wulf Fw 61, first flown in 1936.
  3. Some people believe helicopters are the most versatile of all the flying machines that man invented.
  4. The first person to be rescued at sea by a helicopter was in 1944. It's estimated that the use of helicopters has saved more than 3 million lives in war and peace times around the world since then.
  5. As well as search and rescue, helicopters are useful for tourism, medical transport, fighting fires, aerial photography and military activity.
  6. Hovering can be the most difficult skill when flying a helicopter.
  7. French fighter pilot and helicopter test pilot Didier Delsalle became the first person in history to land on the summit of Mount Everest at 29,035 feet in 2005. 
  8. The word ‘helicopter’ was coined by French inventor Gustave de Ponton d’Amécourt, who used it to name his small, steam-powered rotorcraft. The word helicopter roughly translates to ‘Spiral Copter’ in English.

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