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Chopper on Standby

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Even in the middle of nowhere, an enemy chopper will find you!

Having a helicopter turn up when needed. For the bad guys to help them slip in when the good guys don't expect it, or escape just when the capture seems certain. Doesn't matter if it's a bank robbery, drug deal, or kidnapping, the helicopter will come swooping over the rooftops to help the bad guys take care of business.

On the flip side, the good guys can also have a helicopter handy when they need one, and we can count on a shot of them rushing into a waiting helicopter, with the engine powering up and the helicopter taking off as soon as the last person is inside, buckling up be damned.

This trope is so common that one might be forgiven, after watching enough movies, to think that a huge metropolis like Los Angeles or New York has a giant swarm of helicopters circling the city, waiting for their turn in whatever adventure is underway.

A sub-trope in the Vehicle Index. Can lead to Surprise Vehicle, and is a sister trope to Convenient Escape Boat. Can also involve a Short-Lived Aerial Escape, when the helicopter quickly gets shot down or disabled.

From a film-making standpoint, this makes perfect sense as it doesn't require much suspension of disbelief at all to think that the bad guys would have access to a helicopter, especially if it's the Big Bad. For the good guys, it's even easier if they're members of a police force, a government agency or the military, a foreign government, are wealthy enough to easily afford it, etc.

A helicopter that can easily land and take off is also more practical and versatile for film-making purposes than an airplane that requires a runway.

In Real Life all helicopters, even privately owned ones, are usually hangared at airports, must file a flight plan and contact local Air Traffic Control before taking off, and are clearly marked with identifying numbers. Any aircraft appearing on radar that is unidentified is going to get immediate attention from both state and federal authorities. God help you if you're anywhere near a military base or restricted airspace. After 9/11 the US military is going to shut that down very quickly.


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    Films — Animation 
  • The villain Doctor Calico from Bolt seems to have a squadron of unmarked black helicopters available at a moment's notice. These choppers come equipped with machine guns and missiles, and can even deploy armed motorcycles during their pursuit of The Hero. Justified, because everything occurs within the Show Within the Show, and the director is a firm disciple of Method Acting and More Dakka.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman (1989): The Joker flies away from the Axis Chemical factory in a helicopter. Near the end, the Joker summons the helicopter to pick up him and Vickie Vale from the top of the Gotham City Cathedral.
  • Batman Forever: Two-Face and his henchmen use a helicopter to escape from their bank heist. They also fly the helicopter through an electronic billboard (in order to try and shake off Batman) without the helicopter suffering any damage at all...
  • The villain Doctor Kelloway from Capricorn One has at least six Army Loaches dispatched to silence the three astronauts that escaped his Black Site. As a countermeasure, Brubaker has the escapees take different compass points in their flight. Two helis locate Walker headed south, two more catch Willis going north, then two more pursue Brubaker fleeing west. Justified by Kelloway being the chief of NASA, and the number of henchmen needed to effect his Evil Plan.
  • Captain America: Civil War: When the Winter Soldier is trying to escape after being set loose by Baron Zemo, he climbs to the building roof and finds a helicopter fueled and ready to take off. Only the heroics of Captain America stop him from escaping in the helo.
  • Darkman: The bad guys chase Darkman around an abandoned factory with a helicopter, all the while shooting at him with machine guns and grenade launchers.
  • Die Hard: Averted in the first film, in that the antagonists don't use a helicopter themselves, they want the cops and FBI in the helicopters to see the roof blow up and assume the bad guys perished along with the hostages. The bad guys intend to make their escape in an ambulance they prepositioned in the parking garage. The other films in this series play it much more straight with the bad guys using helicopters.
  • The Fugitive: After Deputy U.S. Marshall Gerard learns that the ambulance that Kimble stole has been spotted, he gives a thumbs-up to a helicopter pilot to tell him to start it up. He and the other Deputy U.S. Marshals use the helicopter to pursue the fleeing Kimble.
  • In The Hot Rock, Dortmunder and his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits are able to access a helicopter when they need to assault the police station. Justified as it is established that Murch can get his hands on just about any kind of vehicle given enough time (the novel has a sequence where he needs to get a locomotive).
  • The James Bond films use this several times:
    • In From Russia with Love, SPECTRE is able to deploy a helicopter to chase Bond across the plains after he kills Red Grant and leaves the Orient Express.
    • GoldenEye has Alec Trevelyan and Xenia Onatopp depart an armored Soviet mobile command train via a helicopter housed in one of the cars. They leave Bond and Bond Girl Natalya trapped on board with a ticking destruct timer.
    • On Her Majesty's Secret Service: Bond is pulled from Operation Bedlam, leaving The Villain Blofeld to conduct his Evil Plan unopposed. Bond then taps his future father-in-law Draco for help with "aerial demolition." Draco lost some good mooks to Blofeld, so he aids Bond with three helos full of armed goons. Notably, the authorites do contact them about not having a flight plan, but Draco responds by declaring the flight is a rescue mission for Italian avalanche survivors.
    • You Only Live Twice seems to avert the stand-by aspect with Little Nellie, an autogyro that Q assembles on the spot. However, while Bond goes about reconnoitering a suspicious island volcano, he's menaced by four hostile helicopters armed with machine guns. They're no match for Little Nellie's weaponry (or Bond's Plot Armor), and their effort invokes the Streisand Effect: there's definitely something fishy about that volcano.
  • Lethal Weapon: Murtaugh's old war buddy is sniped by Mr. Joshua. Mr. Joshua accomplishes this shot from a helicopter.
  • Then in Lethal Weapon 2: Riggs and the woman he's with are attacked in his trailer by bad guys with machine guns in not one, but two helicopters.
  • The Matrix: Neo and Trinity use a helicopter equipped with a Gatling Good when rescuing Morpheus after he's been captured by Agent Smith.
  • Superman Returns: The bank robbers have a helicopter waiting for them on the roof. Along with a gatling gun. Neither one does them much good against Superman.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: In the 17th episode of the 3rd season, Jack and the team are in an uppermost floor of a skyscraper when they get attacked by a helicopter full of bad guys with machine guns.
  • Air Wolf: The entire show was basically this trope, wherein an Army pilot agrees to helm a Top Secret helicopter on covert missions for "The Firm." This gives the United States Plausible Deniability for indiscreet actions against foreign targets. The deal the pilot makes with The Firm is that they agree to search for the pilot's brother, who went Missing In Action during the Vietnam War.
  • In Cory in the House, Newt says he need to get to a extra class after school. Out of nowhere a helicopter appears over the school's garden to pick him up.
  • Der Clown: Once an Episode, the hero go to his helicopter pilot friend and fly to the highway, to drop on the bad guys' getaway truck.
  • Jane the Virgin: In "Chapter Ninety-Eight" Rose has a chopper waiting on the roof of the Marbella as she waits for Luisa to arrive.
  • In an episode of Leverage, the team makes it appear that this trope is happening when they break Nate out of prison. But it turns out to be a toy helicopter that Hardison was seen flying earlier as a distraction.
  • In Magnum, P.I., Thomas pretty much always has a chopper on standby, thanks to his close friend and fellow veteran TC owning and operating a company that provides helicopter tours. TC usually grouses about the expense in fuel, along with wear and tear on his helicopter, which must be enormous over the course of the series. In one episode where it is thought that Magnum inherited millions from a client, TC immediately rushes over with a stack of bills that Magnum has run up using his helicopter... only for TC to tear them up and say all wis forgiven because he wants Magnum to invest in some business ideas he has.
  • In a season 2 episode of Miami Vice, Crockett is pursuing a bad guy who manages to get into a waiting helicopter. Crockett does manage to shoot the helicopter down. This was facilitated by the fact that the pilot flew very slow and very low right over Crockett's head, allowing him to empty his gun into the helicopter at practically point-blank range.
  • Sense8: In the Series Finale, Lila tries to make her escape from the protagonists in a helicopter conveniently parked out by the building the climax takes place in.
  • Stargate SG-1: spoofed late in the series, when Mitchell asks if Gen. Landry can't use his authority as a "powerful Air Force General" to call up a helicopter for convenient transport. "Colonel, we do not use helicopters for such purposes... besides, I already checked, and there aren't any available."
  • Bassie & Adriaan: In "De Huilende Professor", the two protagonists use a Tracking Device to follow Joris, the right hand man of Professor Chagrijn to the professors hideout. After the chase has led them to the island of Gran Canaria, they notice the tracking device's signal has suddenly moved a great distance inland, even though there are no roads leading directly from Joris' last known location to the new one. They conclude the only way Joris could have done that, is if he had a helicopter at his disposal, which makes them realize their opponent is far better organized than they originally thought. In a later episode, after fleeing from the professor's hideout, the two protagonists find this helicopter, and make great use of it to escape.

    Video Games 
  • Bro Force: A helicopter is ready to fly in at the end of most stages and airlift your Bros to safety while the stage explodes, except for the hell stages where you need to cause enough carnage instead of waiting a helicopter to drag you out of there. It can be destroyed, but unless it's a scripted sequence, a replacement is always flown in immediately after. The explosion of the helicopter is lethal under normal circumstances, and so are its rotors. In certain missions, helicopters also drop you off at the start.
  • In the first Dead Rising, this is the way Frank West goes in and out the shopping mall full of zombies. The main objective of the game is to survive 3 days and take record of everything in the mall, at the end of the days, the helicopter will come for you just in time to rescue you if you complete all the objectives. If not, your pilot will suffer a zombie attack and you'll have to wait a couple of days until another helicopter gets you.
  • Left 4 Dead:
    • Averted in the first game: in the last part of the "No Mercy" campaign, the survivors have to call one to escape hordes of zombies, and they have to fight said hordes while waiting for the helicopter to arrive.
    • Kind of subverted in Left 4 Dead 2: in the last part of the campaign "The Parish", the survivors must cross a long bridge that's full of zombies and vehicles blocking the way to join the other shore where the government's helicopter is waiting. It just happened to be on the ground and is about to take off before the crew are alerted.
  • Max Payne: In the final scene, Max is on the roof of the skyscraper while the corrupt corporate executives are attempting to escape in a helicopter. Max shoots out the support cables for a massive antennae, causing it to fall over and destroy the helicopter before it can take off.
  • Helicopters are part of the main weapons of Police in Need for Speed, usually being called during a persecution and they come immediately and throw spiked chains to the road to slow down and make damage to chased racers.
  • Pokémon Colosseum: Evice had a helicopter to escape in, but Ho-Oh destroyed it before he could get in. Since Evice is the Big Bad criminal mastermind and the Mayor of Phenac City, it fits that he'd have a helicopter available.
  • Pokémon Ranger: In Shadows of Almia, Team Dim Sun make liberal use of a helicopter. It swings by to pick up Mr. Kincaid, their Number Two from an oil-rig just as the player and their teammate show up to eavesdrop, and later this helicopter arrives inside of a trap-laden temple to help the villains enact their Hostage for MacGuffin trade with you.
  • In Punch-Out!!, if Super Macho Man wins a fight in Contender mode, a helicopter appears to pick him up...while indoors.
  • In PAYDAY: The Heist and its sequel, Bain always has a helicopter within a short distance in case things go south.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, Dr. Mosely/Zeta has one of these at Barbarossa. Justified, as travel by land to Barbarossa could be dangerous, and Zeta would have to disappear quickly, as her experiment is almost over at that point.

    Western Animation 
  • A regular occurrence in Archer. In a first season episode, Archer and Lana are pinned down and wounded on a mission and request an evac, but the support staff (Cyril, Pam, Cheryl, Krieger, Bilbo, Brett, and the other various office workers) are on strike and refuse to send it. Once Malory agrees to give them a cost of living raise, a helicopter is called and immediately appears to rescue Archer and Lana.

    Real Life 
  • This has occurred in Real Life, usually as part of a prison break. A private helicopter, such as for a sightseeing expedition, is hijacked mid-flight and the pilot instructed to cooperate and proceed to the prison. In another case, the wife of an inmate learned to fly a helicopter, then rented one and flew it to the prison, where she retrieved her husband. They didn't elude the authorities for long.
  • Since 1971, there have been nearly 50 instances world-wide of helicopters being used in this way to facilitate prison escapes. In order to counter this, many prisons installed long steel cables running over the prison yard at five-foot intervals to prevent a helicopter from approaching.
  • In 2001 a hijacked helicopter flew over the Fresnes Prison in France and dropped both weapons and bulletproof vests. Inmates used these to take two guards hostage, but the standoff ended a day later when they surrendered.