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In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Draco Malfoy boasts about escaping from helicopters:

He [Malfoy] complained loudly about first years never getting on the house Quidditch teams and told long, boastful stories that always seemed to end with him narrowly escaping Muggles in helicopters.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 9

Yet it seems that the wizarding community, especially a family like the Malfoys, is quite ignorant of muggle technology (for example, see How blind are wizards to Muggle technology?). Furthermore, it would seem that they don't live anywhere near Muggles; the chances of running into a helicopter are slim.

My questions are:

Is it likely that Malfoy is telling the truth about the helicopters? And if so, how does he know about Muggle helicopters?

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    The Wizarding Worlds understanding of muggle Britain can more or less be compared to an animie's fan understanding of Japan. That is: superficial, not a little fetishistic in places, with a habit of emphasising and de-emphasising random details, with large gaps in their knowledge and a few surprising nuggets here and there. They don't know lots of things but they do know some things and the two camps don't really align with what muggles would consider important. – Glimmervoid Sep 25 '17 at 7:24
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    According to the Harry Potter Wiki, Malfoy Manor is in Wiltshire. That's not exactly remote, I doubt there's anywhere in that part of England - anywhere in England, for that matter - where you wouldn't occasionally see a helicopter. – Harry Johnston Sep 25 '17 at 8:53
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    "long, boastful stories that always seemed to end with him narrowly escaping Muggles in helicopters" This sounds like Draco is telling stories with exagerations based on action movies he has seen. Since Malfoy Manor is in the muggle world, it stands to reason that Draco has seen some action movies, no? – Flater Sep 25 '17 at 9:33
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    Erm, he looked up at the sky? – AJFaraday Sep 25 '17 at 9:41
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    Psst! Salisbury Plain. Magic means something else to the RAF. – JdeBP Sep 25 '17 at 12:19
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At least some wizards do know that Muggle flight methods exist.

Even Arthur Weasley, who doesn't know the proper name for "electricity" or "plumbers", knows what an airplane is, and that its function is to fly. Despite working in the Muggle Artefacts division of the Ministry, and being interested in Muggle technology, Arthur Weasley seems to be one of the wizards who understands Muggle technology the least. However, his greatest ambition is to find out how airplanes stay up, which shows that not only does he know the proper word for them, but he also has at least a basic understanding of what they do.

“Arthur, is that you?’

‘Yes,’ came Mr Weasley’s weary voice. ‘But I would say that even if I were a Death Eater, dear. Ask the question!’

‘Oh, honestly …’

‘Molly!’

‘All right, all right … what is your dearest ambition?’

‘To find out how aeroplanes stay up.” - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 5 (An Excess of Phlegm)

Now, an airplane isn't a helicopter, and Draco isn't Arthur Weasley, but this does show that even wizards who might know little about Muggle technology can still know about their flight methods. It's true that Arthur loved and was fascinated by Muggles though Draco would look at Muggles with disdain, and therefore probably not be actively seeking knowledge of their technology. However, despite his efforts, Arthur was arguably less knowledgeable about Muggle technology than most wizards likely are. Writing an essay on why Muggles need electricity was an assignment for third-years taking Muggle Studies.

“Harry looked around at the cluttered table, at the long Arithmancy essay on which the ink was still glistening, at the even longer Muggle Studies essay (‘Explain why Muggles Need Electricity’) and at the Rune translation Hermione was now poring over.” - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 12 (The Patronus)

Yet Arthur can't even get the word for electricity right. As further evidence that wizarding knowledge of the Muggle world was accurate, Hermione, a Muggle-born who that same year had been complaining about the fallible nature of Divination, hadn't complained once about the information in her Muggle Studies class being wrong. In fact, she recommends that Ron take it - which she wouldn't have done if it would have just given him misinformation.

“Harry, you’ve got to come and stay with us. I’ll fix it up with Mum and Dad, then I’ll call you. I know how to use a fellytone now –’

‘A telephone, Ron,’ said Hermione. ‘Honestly, you should take Muggle Studies next year …” - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 22 (Owl Post Again)

Now it's unlikely that Draco would be taking Muggle Studies, but if other wizards around him knew about helicopters, someone could have mentioned them to him.

Hatred doesn't necessarily prevent someone from having knowledge about a subject and hating something doesn't make someone forget everything they might happen to learn about it. So it's entirely possible that even as a member of a pure-blood family with no interest in Muggles, Draco could have learned what a helicopter is somehow and retained the knowledge.

But it's very unlikely that Draco's boasts about escaping helicopters are true.

If Draco was flying close enough to Muggles to be narrowly escaping them, he'd have been violating the Statute of Secrecy. While the Trace only becomes effective after wizards get their wands and magic before then is generally written off as accidental, if he was flying a broom near Muggles there would likely be consequences. In addition, while Lucius would certainly have the money and the influence to prevent Draco getting into too much trouble, he'd likely be furious with Draco if he flew in front of Muggles since he was very interested in keeping an appearance of propriety.

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    Please keep in mind that Arthur is Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office and is obsessed with muggles and muggle items – Jungkook Sep 25 '17 at 8:12
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    @Jorrit I did keep that in mind, I referenced it in my answer. However, despite his obsession with Muggle, he still can't get the word for electricity (which third years in Muggle Studies are expected to be able to write an essay on why Muggles need it) correct. In addition, it's likely Muggle Studies was fairly accurate, since Hermione took it out of curiosity and didn't complain about it being inaccurate. In fact, she suggests that Ron take it when he shows lack of knowledge about telephones. – Bellatrix Sep 25 '17 at 8:24
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    I doubt many of the few wizards who did for some reason think it was worth taking Muggle Studies in third year manage to remember much of it into adulthood. Sort of like many Muggles and algebra. – aschepler Sep 25 '17 at 11:28
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    @aschepler Yes, but it shows that,at least some people in the wizarding world have that level of knowledge. To use your example, Muggles might forget the algebra they learned in school, but the knowledge is available. There are people who can do algebra completely, even if not everyone can. – Bellatrix Sep 25 '17 at 15:28
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    @Mast Here's the quote! :) “Harry looked around at the cluttered table, at the long Arithmancy essay on which the ink was still glistening, at the even longer Muggle Studies essay (‘Explain why Muggles Need Electricity’) and at the Rune translation Hermione was now poring over.” - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 12 (The Patronus) – Bellatrix Sep 26 '17 at 17:08
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Famous Quidditch players have had run-ins with helicopters

Fabius Watkins
1940 - 1975
Legendary Captain and Chaser of Montrose Magpies. Died in freak collision with helicopter.
old jkrowling.com - Wizards of the Month

It is possible that Malfoy (and the fellow students that he's telling these stories to) had known about helicopters in relation to Quidditch through such stories about famous quidditch players. In typical Malfoy fashion, Draco is trying to claim that he is on that same level.

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    ...An example where the wizard survived the encounter would probably be more to Malfoy's taste, I would think. – jpmc26 Sep 25 '17 at 8:30
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    @jpmc26 - Obviously Fabius Watkins was a worse flyer than Malfoy... – ibid Sep 25 '17 at 8:32
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    Don't forget winter '09 when the Ottawa Geese, flying back from Atlantic City, tragically flew right into an Airbus. – Harper Sep 26 '17 at 4:20
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He doesn't actually have any idea what he's talking about.

As @ibid's answer points out, the Wizarding World has had at least one encounter with a helicopter. However, given that Arthur Weasley has Exhibit A of the wizards' general understanding of Muggle technology, chances are that all Draco actually knows about helicopters are:

  1. They are Muggle things that fly.
  2. A Quidditch player once collided with one.

That's all he knows, but nobody else he cares about is likely to know any better, so that's all he needs to know to make the boast.

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    And you really don't need to know much more for the stories to work. – Weckar E. Sep 25 '17 at 12:21
  • Whoever downvoted: May I ask why? I like getting feedback on how to improve further answers to this site. – Shadur Sep 25 '17 at 17:10
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    Note that he may not even know the word : he could very well be saying something like "big flying Muggle thing with an helix", which Harry mentally translates as "helicopters". A little bit of a stretch, but not impossible. – Arnaud D. Sep 25 '17 at 18:24
  • @ArnaudD. A significantly larger stretch than "He's lying/boasting and doesn't know what he's talking about. Bear in mind it's Draco "Bouncing Ferret, Death Eater Wannabe, and General Shitweasel" Malfoy we're talking about here. – Shadur Sep 26 '17 at 6:58

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