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Click Here for the History of the Helicopter — Rotor You Waiting For?

Written by on Monday, July 30th, 2012

It’s July 30th, so you know what that means: International Helicopter Day!

OK, I admit that this isn’t a real holiday, but I think we could probably celebrate it nonetheless. After all, these noisy cousins of the airplane are an invaluable component of the US Air Force. But where’d they get started? We all know that the Wright brothers came up with the first plane, but who came up with the first helicopter? Today, we’re going to dive into the past to take a look at the history of these powerful, versatile aircraft.

Some of you may have heard that famous inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci came up with the first helicopter, but the idea of spinning rotary flight is actually much older. That idea can be traced as far back as 400 CE, when Chinese children and philosophers twirled spinning bamboo toys and played with the idea of rotary wing aircraft. They never did take the idea from spinning toys to fully operational helicopters (the whole world would be speaking Chinese if they had), but da Vinci tackled the idea again nearly a millennium later with his aerial screw.

A few deferential inventors fiddled with helicopter-like models through the 1700s and 1800s until Gustave de Ponton d’Amécourt coined the term “helicopter” to describe a steam-powered rotary aircraft made from a new-fangled light metal called aluminum. The steam buy cheap cialis usa helicopter never took off, but d’Amécourt’s new phrase took to the skies.

Two French brothers (what is it with brothers and aviation milestones?), Jacques and Louis Breguet, experimented with helicopters in 1907, just four years after the Wright brothers’ historic flight. Their Gyroplane No. 1 lifted a pilot to the height of 2 feet, marking the first ever manned helicopter flight.

A wide array of French, American, English inventors experimented with various helicopter designs throughout the 1910s and the 1920s. They made advances, improved the design, and set records, but they were all thoroughly stomped by the German Focke-Wulf Fw-61. It took its first flight in 1936, and by 1937 it has broken every single helicopter world record ever made. The Fw-61 showed the world that vertical flight was not only possible, but potentially more useful in some situations than fixed-wing aircraft.

Over in the States, Russian-American Igor Sikorsky competed with another inventor to develop America’s first helicopter. He won the competition, and his R-4 became the first mass-produced helicopter at 100 orders and it was the only helicopter to serve the Allied forces in WWII.

 

 

The rest, as they say, is history. Once mankind had developed enough technology to produce the R-4, more advanced helicopters like the AH-64 Apache were only a hop, skip, and a vertical take-off away.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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