Was there a better decade for television than the 1980s? I mean, we had an alien from Melmac hanging out in suburbia, a talking Trans AM helping bring down the bad guys, and a cozy bar where it seemed everybody knew your name. And, that’s before we even touch on the subject of helicopters!
I’ve no idea why, but it seems as though a large chunk of the shows populating the airwaves at this time were obsessed with them.
From Airwolf to Blue Thunder, there really wasn’t a more chopper-crazed time on television than in the 1980s. Nor has there been one since.
The Top 5 TV Helicopters Of The 80s
Hughes 500D Tour Chopper From Magnum P.I.
Tom Selleck’s Ferrari 308 GTS wasn’t the only cool mode of transportation to be featured on this beloved ’80s crime drama.
With a unique Peanut Butter Cup color scheme and zippy light turbine design, this Hughes 500D wasn’t just the right ride for taking tourists on breathtaking trips around Hawaii. No, this slick little island hopper also happened to be the ideal craft for getting the mustachioed Magnum out of those stickier-than-normal situations.
Not only that, it also happens to be flown by one of the coolest secondary characters in television history!
Oh, and did I mention you can even take a ride in it yourself thanks to the “Magnum Experience” offered through Hawaii’s Paradise Helicopter Tours? Yeah, it’s that iconic!
Cody & Nick’s Sirosky 58DT From Riptide
Mr. Magnum wasn’t the only vet turned private eye who looked to utilize a helicopter in his adventures. Army buddies Nick and Cody also had one of their own in Screaming Mimi, a reliable Sirosky 58DT with a tacky pink paint job and a massive mouth mounted front and center.
Like T.C.’s whirlybird, ‘ol Mimi was oftentimes used to charter flights around Los Angeles – when not deployed on some top-secret private investigating, that is.
Screaming Mimi may not be the prettiest chopper to grace the small screen, but she’s certainly one of the most unique. If not, one of the most memorable. And to think, this model is still in use today to fight wildfires. Gaudy pink paint and glaring green eyes not included of course!
The Autochopper Bell 206 From Automan
This tv show may have only lasted a single season before going the way of the dinosaurs, but it still featured one of the coolest choppers to grace early ’80s TV screens.
The show centered around a holographic man capable of transforming into different vehicles to help the cops catch bad guys. One of these vehicles was a Bell 206 with a striking neon blue outline that called to mind some of the design elements featured in the original Tron.
Like I said earlier, Automan only lasted a single season before being pulled from the air, but that futuristic-looking helicopter still stands out as one of the most striking crafts in television history some 40 years later.
The Airwolf Bell 222 From Airwolf
I’ll be perfectly honest here, my first exposure to Airwolf came in the form of the old Nintendo game released back in 1988.
Eventually, I would check out the television series and quickly fall in love with the stealthy, near-indestructible heli – even if it was just a simple utility chopper kitted out with all kinds of extra gear to give it a more sleek sheen.
Ah, the magic of 1980s TV, am I right?
Still, it looked so good! And served as the focal point for a show that basically hinged on touting just how technologically advanced this chopper was supposed to be besides!
Interestingly enough, a replica of Airwolf currently sits atop a $250-Million mansion in Bel-Air – its permanent home since the aviation museum it was built for back in 2006 closed its doors.
The Blue Thunder SA-314G From Blue Thunder
Based upon the film of the same name, and lasting just one season, the tv series Blue Thunder starred Dana Carvey and ex-football star Bubba Smith as the new brains behind the iconic chopper.
For the small screen, Blue Thunder was crafted from a French-made SA-314G Gazelles featuring a new canopy framed from an AH-64 Apache gunship. Yep, it was 80s television trickery at its finest and the end result was one of the coolest-looking helicopters to take up a time slot on the TV screen!
While the big screen version starring Roy Scheider is definitely the better choice of the two, this television series, which also starred James Farentino and Ann Cooper, is certainly worth a watch for the stereotypical 80s explosions and awesome aerial aerobatics alone!