History of the Helicopter
Helicopters look nice hovering around, but where did they come from?
A long time ago in the 16th century, Leonardo da Vinci thought up the concept but could not provide a propulsion system. There are many different models of helicopters and helicopter type machines that had been made since then. Dating back to the fifth century, Chinese children often played with bamboo flying toys, propellers attached to a stick that, when spun, makes the propeller fly into the air. Leonardo da Vinci produced an “aerial screw,” but was challenged by the fact that the rotor would make the entire craft spin. In 1861, a French inventor named Gustave de Ponton d’Amecourt used the term “helicopter” to describe his steam-powered aluminum model; however, it would not fly. Slovak inventor Jon Bahyl made a model utilizing an internal combustion engine that, in 1905, was able to get four meters off the ground and travel a distance of 1,500 meters before landing.
The first manned helicopter flight took place in 1907 when two French brothers, Jacques and Louis Breguet, lifted their Gyroplane No. 1 about two feet in the air while tethered to the ground. The first untethered flight was by fellow Frenchman Paul Cornu, who, in the same year, was able to launch his helicopter six feet into the air. Cornu’s helicopter utilized two twenty-foot rotors that counter-rotated. These early experiments in helicopter design were overshadowed by the success of the Wright Brothers and the fixed-wing plane, but their own success was limited and the helicopters were abandoned, having proved to be very unstable.
In the 1920s, Argentine Raul Pateras Pescara and Frenchman Etienne Oemichen drew great attention to themselves and the helicopter with a series of feats to outdo each other. On April 14, 1924, Oemichen set a record by flying his helicopter for 360 meters. Four days later, Pescara flew his nearly a half mile while six feet off the ground. On May 4, Oemichen flew his a record one mile, with an altitude of fifty feet. He then went on to claim the title of fastest helicopter with a mile run in just seven minutes.
The Soviet Union generated great interest in the concept of the helicopter. They developed the TsAGI 1-EA, combining tubed framework, a four blade rotor, and two smaller rotors placed at the nose and tail. The TsAGI 1-EA shattered all previous records by attaining a height of 605 meters in 1932. The Soviets launched a program to develop a successful line of helicopters and by 1936, sustained flights of one hour were possible. With the onset of World War II, helicopter technology was burgeoning.
Nazi Germany attempted to mass produce helicopters in World War II, but was stifled by Allied bombing raids. Its Focke-Wulfe FW-61 broke every established record for altitude, speed, and endurance. They began to use helicopters for observation, transport, and medical evacuations in combat. The United States produced over four hundred helicopters during the war, used for rescue under harsh conditions. After the war, the Bell Aircraft company began to mass produce helicopters for civilian use. Utilizing a teetering-blade rotor with a stabilizing bar, the Bell 47 became the most popular helicopter for nearly thirty years. All facets of American life transformed, from news casting to mail delivery.
The final component for the modern helicopter was the invention of the turbine engine. The turbo shaft allowed less weight to impact the helicopter, as traditional piston engines were heavy and had extra components the turbine engine was able to eliminate. With the optimization of shaft power rather than jet thrust, the turbine caused manufacturers to be able to build larger and more efficient models. The advancements in aeronautics made the ability to build helicopters powerful enough to lift houses and vehicles a new found asset. With the power to take off and land at a single point, the helicopter has revolutionized air transportation.
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* Did you know that helicopters are safer than airplanes.
* If the engine stops, the helicopter rotor continues to spin allowing the machine to slowly land, generally with out crashing to the ground.
* Modern day helicopters are no more difficult to fly than many types of fixed wing airplanes.
* Helicopters are the safest aircraft to fly in bad weather as they can slow down, stop and/or fly backwards or sideways.
* More than 3 million lives have been saved by helicopters in both peacetime and wartime operations since the first person was rescued from the sea in 1944.
* US police and emergency rescue helicopters transport about 15000 patients every year saving thousands of lives.
* There are more than 11000 civil helicopters operating in the U.S.
* There are more than 15000 civil helicopters operating in more than 157 other countries around the world.
* If you include military helicopters it is estimated that there are more than 45000 operating worldwide.
* Helicopters can be flown across oceans if additional fuel is made available or in-flight refueling is carried out.
* If you want to travel 300 to 400 miles the helicopter is often the quickest means of transportation.
* Tilting the main rotors enables the helicopter to lift, go forward, backwards or sideways. The power provided by the engine is principally used to turn the rotors.