The original VertiBird playset has a space theme appropriate for the space age attitude of the 1970's. The first set was reminiscent of the Project Mercury program. Later versions of the VertiBird would continue to revisit the space theme as well as other popular television and movie themes of the 1970's and early 1980's time frames.
The helicopter is controlled using a two lever control unit. The controls operate similar to a real helicopter. The throttle control provides proportional control of the blade speed. The pitch control provides for tilting the Vertibird forward or backward. During flight the VertiBird is subject to the same physical flight characteristics as a real helicopter. This included ground-effects for low level hovering, plus altitude gains and losses when changing direction. Overall the VertiBird is easy to learn how to pilot for basic flight, but precision flying will require some patience and time on the controls as in a real helicopter.
In actual operation the spring assist is not enough to lift the VertiBird off the ground. Most of the lift comes the spinning rotor itself. Subsequently, dropping heavy items during flight will result in a very rapid ascension of the VertiBird unless the pilot has good flight skills.
Mattel designed the set with younger children in mind. The VertiBird can take quite a beating during crashes and toybox storage. This design has resulted in a toy that has survived over 38 years and remains as fun today as it was when it first came on the market back in 1971.