Little Bits of History

Helicopters

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 26, 2010

Focke-Wulf FW-61

June 26, 1934: The Focke-Wulf FW-61, the first fully controllable production helicopter, is flown for the first time. Professor Heinrich Focke and engineer Gerd Achgelis began the design of this type of flying machine in 1932. Focke and Georg Wulf, along with Dr. Werner Naumann founded Focke-Wulf-Flugzeugbau GmbH in 1923. Wulf died in a monoplane accident in 1927. The company continued. Focke and Achgelis used a training aircraft frame and attached single-engine rotors on each side of the fuselage in place of the wings, the first successful helicopter. Focke was ousted from his own company by shareholder pressure in 1936. He and Achgelis form an eponymous company in 1937.

Helicopters are much more complex, expensive, and limited by speed, range, and payload when compared to fixed-wing aircraft. However, they are more maneuverable, can take off and land vertically, and can hover or reverse direction. Today, there are hybrid aircraft which combines some elements of fixed-wing flight along with some of the helicopter.

Fixed wing flight is generated by the relative motion between the air and the curved fixed wing. Lift is created as the airstream passes by something that deflects it. This is in accordance with Newton’s third law of motion. The helicopter uses the same principal but with rotating “wings.”

The FW-61 achieved a top speed of 76 mph during its testing in 1936. Because of the aerodynamic limitations of rotors, it is thought that the maximum attainable speed of any helicopter is 250 mph. The world’s fastest helicopter was a modified ZB500 G-Lynx with a top recorded speed of 249.10 mph. The US military “Black Hawk” has a cruising speed of 150 mph and a maximum speed of 220.

“I grew up in a neighborhood so rough, I learned to read by the light of a police helicopter.” – Bill Jones

“There are still too few helicopters to reach more than 1,000 remote villages with lifesaving supplies that children urgently need.” – Ann Veneman

“There is a continued need for more helicopter capacity, to move in the inaccessible areas. The terrain here is very difficult and winter is approaching.” – Hilary Benn

“The helicopter is a very potent business tool to shuttle mid-level folks to Wall Street, … The biggest issue is the time that the client saves. If you’re going from Manhattan to Washington, the fastest way to go is by helicopter.” – Mike Moran

Also on this day, in 1927 the Cyclone opened at Coney Island.