Today I’m teaching a short class on the History of the Helicopter: 400 BC to Modern Era at a Youth Aviation Club meeting. The group meets about twice a month and encourages young folks to learn about flying and how to make their dreams of soaring and zooming a reality.
I love aviation history! It’s kind of my history hobby to enjoy reading about and seeing old aircraft. (Check my June field trip for some fun airplane photos). So I enjoyed doing the research to put together a presentation for the club and even found some topics that would be great “long” research projects sometime in the future.
Anyway, here’s a few of the facts that I’ll be presenting:
- The Chinese used a very basic form of a helicopter in 400 BC as children’s toys.
- Leonardo da Vinci actually drew plans for a “helicopter” type flying machine. The problem: since his design was based around the principle of a screw, the entire aircraft was going to spin…like an amusement park ride. Yikes!
- During the Age of the Enlightenment (1700’s) Christian de Launoy built a basic model using turkey feathers as rotor blades and demonstrated it in the French Academy of Sciences
- 1861: the word “helicopter” is used for the first time and steam powered models try to fly (unsuccessfully)
- 1870: coaxial helicopter toys are built for children (Wilbur and Orville Wright played with one)
- Thomas Edison tries to invent a vertical flying machine with an internal combustion engine (unsuccessfully)
- 1907: man flies in a helicopter about two feet off the ground!
- Not used in WWI
- In the 1920’s and 1930 the principles of vertical flight begin to be understood and flying models improve
- Not practical for use during WWII, but a few models were used for medical evacuations in remote areas
- Igor Sikosky builds successful helicopters in the United States. The aircraft is adopted for the military and civilian usages
- 1951: the first turbine powered helicopter is developed
- Helicopters were used extensively in the Korean and Vietnam War
- Helicopters are still used today in varied jobs; with continued improvements they will probably remain part of the aviation world for a long time.
There you have it – a very brief synopsis of the presentation and some new aviation/historical facts to educate (or annoy) your friends.