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When he's not pursuing the Red Baron, Snoopy does search and rescue missions.

"Gasp! My theory was true! Spike can fly! FLY DOG! FLY!"
Rob, Siblings, "Dog Daze of Boredom"

This is a creature that flies using an organic propeller instead of wings. Though some bacterial life forms in Real Life really do move this way, it is impossible in more complex organisms, because such a structure requires at least two separate parts and there'd be no way for their nerves, veins, et cetera to make it from one to the other. It does tend to show up in fiction, though, largely due to the Rule of Cool and because spinning is spectacular.

Often a subtrope of Bizarre Alien Locomotion, always a Sub-Trope of Instant Flight: Just Add Spinning! See also Helicopter Hair, Ear Wings.



    open/close all folders 

  • In this commercial for Energizer batteries, the Energizer Bunny uses his ears to hover.
  • In a few old MetLife ads, Snoopy flies using his ears as helicopter blades (as depicted in the page image).

    Anime & Manga 
  • Mocchi of DearS does this in omake with its ears.
  • In Di Gi Charat, Rabi~en~Rose uses the ears of her bunny costume to fly.
  • In Digimon Xros Wars, Taiki turns Dorulumon into one of these by DigiXrossing him with Starmon and the Pickmons, which turns the drill on Dorulumon's tail into a propeller. On one hand, it saves them from a fall of thousands of feet. On the other hand, it leaves Dorulumon hanging in the air by his rump, much to his embarrassment.
  • Goku does this early in Dragon Ball a few times by spinning his tail. (Before he can fly by using his ki, naturally.)
  • Kinnikuman: Sneagator's frill-necked lizard form allows him to fly by spinning the neck frill like a propeller. He also uses it like a buzzsaw.
  • Funnily enough, at least one Buizel actually does copy Tails' flight method in the Pokémon anime, complete with identical aerial posture and helicopter-tails.
  • In the Grand Finale of Samurai Pizza Cats, The Big Cheese is seen using his tail as a helicoptor propeller.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In Pleasant Goat Fun Class: Animals & Plants episode 1, Wolffy thinks elephants can spin their trunks to fly in the air. Weslie tells him that elephants can't do that.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield:
    • Garfield unintentionally does this to himself, while winding a leg too much preparing for another literal Kick the Dog gag with Odie.
    • He also has wound up Odie's ears like an airplane propelled on occasion. Reality Ensues when his flight ends as his ears unwind.
  • Snoopy from Peanuts is sometimes seen using his ears as a propeller. One particular strip has Reality Ensues when after utilizing this ability, Snoopy has an abrupt crash landing due to his ears becoming too tangled up from the spinning.
    Linus: That's the first time in my life I've seen a whirlydog!
    Lucy: Whirlybird — not whirlydog!
    [Snoopy zooms by; Lucy looks shocked]
    Linus: I think if I had meant whirlybird, I would have said whirlybird!

    Fan Works 
  • In the fanfic Tails of the Old Republic, a crossover/Fusion Fic between Sonic the Hedgehog and the videogame Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Tails the fox has two tails like in the games and other media he regularly features in, and he can fly with them, fight with them, and even shield himself with them. In here, he has two basic flight modes: a general-purpose "helicopter mode" that has great versatility and a top speed of about 200 MPH, and a much faster and energy-intensive "turbofan mode" (similar to a jet engine) that can propel him up to 600 MPH or higher.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The fan lizard from James Cameron' Avatar. The lizard spins with its fan, so it is slightly more plausible than some other examples.

  • One of Keith Laumer's Retief novels is all about a planet where basically every living creature has spinning parts as basic anatomy. Flying creatures all have propellers, swimming creatures all have turbines, and land-dwellers all have wheels.
  • Alan Dean Foster likes this trope, having flying reptilians with organic helicopter blades instead of wings show up in both the Spellsinger novels (where it could be plausible because A Wizard Did It) and as alien creatures on several planets in the Humanx Commowealth (where it is decidedly less plausible).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Round the Twist episode "The Whirling Derfish", Bronson swallows a rare whirling derfish and discovers he now has the ability to swim incredibly fast by using his penis as a propeller.

    Video Games 
  • In The Adventures of Lomax, the plume of Lomax's helmet can work like this if you have the proper ability.
  • Some of the small ones can be seen in the background of Wii version in A Boy and His Blob on Blob's home planet.
  • Possibly the trope namers are flying Critters from Cave Story which move that way.
  • Conker the squirrel uses his tail this way in Conker's Bad Fur Day, in the move he dubbed "Helicoptery Tail Thingy".
  • Donkey Kong:
  • Earthworm Jim:
    • Earthworm Jim is able to do this with his... upper body, or whatever would be roughly equivalent to that on a cartoon worm. In the sequel, the manual jokes that due to back strain, he can't do this anymore, and instead he uses Snot to glide.
    • Evil the Cat can also do this with his tail in the second game to attack you from above.
  • The rabbits in the Jazz Jackrabbit games would use their ears as a propeller to float.
  • The Ice Dragon from Kirby's Dream Land 2 uses its tail as a propeller to fly.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Peahats, a species of monstrous plants.
    • The Wind Waker introduces the marine Seahats.
    • The Deku Scrubs in Majora's Mask use flowers this way. Link himself gains this power when he transforms into one.
  • Rocket Raccoon in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 can use his tail to hover for a short time.
  • Metal Slug 6 has an Invader alien called the Smasher, it resembles a crab-like thing that spins its legs like a helicopter to fly before inflating itself to smash down on you.
  • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate gives us Duramboros and its subspecies, who can launch themselves into the air simply though spinning using their heavy tails. If in rage mode they only need one swing to launch themselves into the air.
  • The Really Flying Mouse enemy from Mother 3, which is a Cyborg mouse that has had a propeller and a jetpack grafted onto it by the Pigmasks.
  • Pokémon:
    • Hoppip and Skiploom with leaves and a flower, respectively.
    • An aquatic Pokémon named Buizel, partly based on Tails. It doesn't fly, however, but uses its tails as a propeller in water. Though it can create a stream of water to "fly" through when using Aqua Jet. This also applies to its evolved form, Floatzel. Barraskewda, from Sword and Shield, is based on a torpedo and also has a propellor-like tail.
    • An unlicensed game for the SNES lets you play as a Chikorita who can fly using the leaf on its head.
  • Light-blue slimes in Purple have propellers that pop-out when they leap.
  • One of the abilities Rayman gains in the first game and keeps (averting the Bag of Spilling) in the later ones.
  • The Flying Fowl family of enemies in Shiren the Wanderer have these.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Miles "Tails" Prower, the young fox friend of Sonic, uses his two tails to fly and hover like a helicopter.
    • Cream the Rabbit, as well. While she usually flies by flapping them, in Sonic Chronicles, she twirls her ears like a helicopter when preforming a certain POW move, much like the page image above.
  • The snipes (small, spherical bird-like creatures) in Spiral Knights move by twirling their wings around their midsection.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The Mario Bros themselves are also able to float slowly to the ground if they manage to get spinning fast enough. And in the Galaxy games, they actually manage to imitate helicopters with their arms as the blades, somehow spinning their bodies while their head remains stationary.
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2 features a green parrot-like enemy that flies using four spinning blades around its neck. A plant enemy has a similar feature at its underside.
  • Super Marisa Land: In New Super Marisa Land, Marisa using the Reisen suit gains limited flight from spinning her bunny ears. It's more of a double jump technique but because it can be used to reverse a fall it's technically flight.
  • Pom's Pilot Pup in Them's Fightin' Herds flies by spinning its tail.
  • Kaze in Kaze and the Wild Masks can hover by spinning her huge ears like helicopter blades.

    Web Animation 
  • In Silver Quill's "After the Fact: Amending Fences", upon seeing Pinkie Pie using her tail to fly (see the example in Western Animation below), the hippogriff gets jealous — part of a running gag about him taking a very long time to get a flying animation. So Silver Quill tries to copy Pinkie by spinning his own tail, but has no control over it and is sent flying backward.

    Web Comics 
  • An Awkward Zombie strip uses this as a theoretical explanation for the burning question of how the hell Doduo can learn fly. Answer: by spinning its two heads (and necks).
  • The Mansion of E has Helipaths, tentacled creatures who fly using this method.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: A couple of the spirits in The Legend of Korra have propellers.
  • Marlon the mynah bird from The Brady Kids would fly by spinning his tail feathers like a rotor.
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • Donald Duck uses his tail as a propeller in "Alpine Climbers".
    • As with a seagull seen in the House of Mouse short "Mickey and the Seagull".
  • Muttley from Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines sometimes uses his tail as a propeller.
  • Finder (Experiment 158) from Lilo & Stitch: The Series can use his ears to fly like a helicopter in order to help others find things.
  • Jargonaise from The Lingo Show spins the feathers on top of her head like a propeller as her method of flight.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The short "Go Fly a Kit" is about a kitten who was raised by an eagle and learns to fly by spinning its tail.
    • Bugs Bunny sometimes uses his ears as a propeller.
      • In "Lighter Than Hare", he uses his ears as helicopter propellers to get away from an outer space version of Yosemite Sam.
      • Not always voluntarily, though, as in "Bunny Hugged" where the Crusher wounds up his ears and sends him flying around.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the very first episode, "Mare in the Moon", upon seeing Rarity for the first time, Spike spins the tip of his dragon tail, although using it only as propeller: the actual lift is provided by Love Floats.
    • In the episode "The Cutie Pox", Apple Bloom gets herself airborne with her tail. It's a lesser example in that she doesn't do it just with her tail, but by spinning a hula hoop at high speed.
    • In "Amending Fences", Pinkie is shortly seen flying by spinning her tail. This being Pinkie Pie, the only surprising thing about it is that she hadn't done it sooner.
  • Nate Is Late: In episode "The Tree People", most of the younger tree sprites can fly thanks to the pair of leaves atop their heads turning like a rotor.
  • The title character of The Rabbit with the Checkered Ears can spin said checkered ears like a propeller to fly to the aid of the human cast, as they are longer than the rest of its body.
  • The Simpsons: Ralph Wiggum's Imaginary Friend uses his tail (in some unspecified manner) to fly.

    Real Life 
  • Samaras are a kind of fruit whose "wings" can resemble the propeller of a helicopter, especially with the case of the Maple family of trees. While they don't "fly" per se, the twirling of their wings allows them to stay airborne for longer, and thus get carried further from their parent when blown by wind.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Helicopter Animal, Heli Creature



In most Sonic games, Tails can fly by twirling his tails like a helicopter.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / HeliCritter

Media sources:

Main / HeliCritter