From the action movie San Andreas (2015) starring Dwayne Johnson as the main character.

A rescue team in a helo with a bunch of reporters on board making a documentary about the dangers of rescue operations are flying to save a girl who is hanging on a cliff in her car and is about to go down. But the problem is that the location is very difficult to get at because the car is stuck in a narrow ravine. So, they need to tilt their helicopter and somehow squeeze it into this narrow ravine so that they can get closer to her and take her up. Here's what they say:

— Man, I don't see a way in.
— We're gonna tip the hat.
— Tip the hat?
— Yeah. You might wanna hold on to something. Here we go.

I presume this is a slang term that only search and rescue professionals use. Tip obviously means to tilt, but what is hat supposed to mean?

The stills from the movie:

Helicopter descending Helicopter banking Helicopter angled sharply down

  • 3
    Just a guess, but the tilt of the helicopter in steep descent resembles the tilt of a tipped hat: alexanderhats.com/sites/all/themes/images/hat_tip.jpg
    – Jonah
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 0:40
  • Late 19th century (originally denoting an act of raising one's hat as a polite greeting or salutation): from the phrase, tip one's hat. I'm unsure if it's genuine helicopter pilot jargon but that's what the manoeuvre refers to.
    – Joe Dark
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 1:20
  • Well , I haven't ever come across such thing I'm not familiar with it
    – Mohammed
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 5:52

1 Answer 1


Joe Dark is correct to say that when all men wore hats, it was polite to tip (remove the hat briefly) to show respect to someone.

The phrase tip one's hat is now an idiom and simply means to show someone respect, often in recognition of an achievement (but does not involve an actual hat). An example:

I'm impressed by your use of English. I tip my hat to you.

The phrase tip the hat as used in the film isn't an idiom, as it is not well established. It is a metaphor.

In this case the hat being tipped is a helicopter.

Bascially, tip the hat in this context means the helicopter is being tilted at an extreme angle.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .