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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 (or, in some cases, swims) 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).

  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: A variant occurs in the first episode of Ultimate Battle: The Next Generation, in that Wolffy spins his tail to propel himself across a void that he and Weslie are brought to and float in.
  • 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.

    Anime & Manga 

    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. In a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome, his flight ends as his ears unwind.
  • Snoopy from Peanuts is sometimes seen using his ears as a propeller. One particular strip has a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome 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!
  • The Wacky Adventures of Pedro has one storyline in which an overdose of Power-Up Food causes Pedro's ears to stretch and rotate like helicopter blades.

    Fan Works 
  • In the fanfic Tails of the Old Republic, a crossover/Fusion Fic between Sonic the Hedgehog and 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.

  • Two creatures are seen in Animorphs that use wheels. Actual, biological wheels, that are part of their body. They are owned by Visser Three, and each of them could split into two creatures, one wheeled, one flying. They were like organic '80s action figure accessories. The unlikeliness of such creatures does not pass without mention.
  • The Billywig, a magic insect from Australia, as detailed in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a defictionalized textbook from Harry Potter.
  • The biological impossibility of wheels is reconstructed in His Dark Materials, where the wheel are giant seed pods from tree that grow around the animals in question.
  • Karlsson on the Roof by Swedish author Astrid Lingren, about a male person of indeterminate age with a propeller on his back and a button on his stomach to turn it on.
  • 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.
  • Ultraman Leo has a Monster of the Week called Kendoros who takes the form of a living artichoke with arms and legs, and also blade-like leaves on its top which allows it to hover and fly.

  • Star Monsters: The petals on Oray's head look like a propeller. Oray tries to use them to fly, to no avail.

    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.
  • In Animal Jam, the bunny's "play" animation has it jumping into the air and helicoptering with its ears.
  • Beacon of Hope has an appliance variation: Desk lamp Beacon can hover by spinning his power cord like a propeller.
  • Possibly the trope namers are flying Critters from Cave Story which move that way.
  • Claws of Furry: Robodog can achieve flight by spinning his ears like helicopter blades.
  • 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.
  • Fishgun, where all your enemies are anthropomorphic fruits, have sentient flying cherries who use their stalks as organic rotors to fly around.
  • 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, fly by twirling their leaves like helicopter blades. The Wind Waker introduces the marine Seahats, which do the same with a ring of fins.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: The Deku Scrubs use flowers this way. Link himself gains this power when he transforms into one.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Rocket Raccoon 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 Portable 3rd has the Duramboros, which 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. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate adds the Rust Duramboros, a pink-colored subspecies that retains the main ability of its standard cousin.
  • Mother 3: The Really Flying Mouse enemy is a Cyborg mouse that has had a propeller and a jetpack grafted onto it by the Pigmasks.
  • Pikmin:
    • Onions, the Pikmin's living nests, fly by means of flowers on their tops that rotate like helicopter blades.
    • Hey! Pikmin: Coppellers and Muggonflies have flower-like growths on their backs that rotate around their axes, allowing them to fly.
  • Pokémon:
    • Hoppip and Skiploom fly by spinning a pair leaves and a flower, respectively. Their evolution Jumpluff instead floats using dandelion puffs.
    • An aquatic Pokémon named Buizel. 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.
    • The Aqua Breed variety of Paldean Tauros uses its three tails as a boat propeller when it swims.
  • Purple: Light-blue slimes have propellers that pop out when they leap.
  • Rayman: One of the abilities that Rayman gains in the first game and keeps (averting the Bag of Spilling) in the later ones.
  • 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 performing a certain POW move, much like the page image above.
  • Spiral Knights: The snipes (small, spherical bird-like creatures) 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 envious — 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.

  • 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 & 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.
  • DJ Catnip from "Gabby’s Dollhouse" often uses his legs to propel himself. Apparently all elastic kitties can do it because his cousin DJ Comet often does it too.
  • 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. The epilogue shows the kitten as an adult cat with kittens who fly the same way.
    • 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 Owl House: Hooty can fly in his "Porta-Hooty" form by stretching and angling his neck and whirling his head around. He can carry at least one person with him.
  • 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.
  • Razzberry Jazzberry Jam: The Alien Castanets can somehow fly by looking upwards, opening their mouths 180 degrees and spinning.
  • In at least one episode of Ready Jet Go!, it's shown that Sunspot can move his ears like a propeller to fly.
  • The Simpsons: Ralph Wiggum's Imaginary Friend uses his tail (in some unspecified manner) to fly.
  • A Thousand and One... Americas: Near the end of the twenty-fourth episode, Lon shows a Nazca priest about how airplanes work (since those didn't exist yet during the pre-Columbian era in Real Life) by flapping his long ears to fly near the ceiling of the temple where they are. He even expends his front paws sideways to further similate the shape of the airplanes. Hilariously, due to his distraction he clashes against a wall.

    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.
  • On the microscopic scale, this is how the flagella of bacteria function. The flagellum is a whip-like structure that rotates freely from the rest of the bacterium, propelling it through water or other liquids.
  • Many small insects such as bees fly this way, by spinning their wings around in a circle (though unlike a bacterial flagellum, they aren't freely rotating) instead of flapping them up and down like birds do. The spinning generates a small wind that provides them lift. This is actually where the common myth that a bee's wings are too small to support its body comes from— if bees flapped their wings up and down like birds instead of spinning them, they wouldn't be able to fly.


Alternative Title(s): Helicopter Animal, Heli Creature



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

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Example of:

Main / HeliCritter

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