Go Back Home Archimedes the Man Archimedes the Museum Be a Member/Supporter Historical Timeline Autogiros Helicopters
V/STOL Machines Photo Archive Questions & Answers Fomulas & Documents Calendar Gift Shop Friends of the Museum Contact Us
Archimedes Rotorcraft & V/STOL Museum

Spiral of History

Historical Timeline

250BC - Today

Chinese Top

We have no idea who invented it, or exactly when - circa 250-200BC, but the "Chinese Top" is the first real example of a flying machine. This toy was a true helicopter! When spun betweeen the hands and released it would soar through the air. Many inventors through the centuries played with these and dreamed of devices that would lift man into the sky.

Drawing of Archimedes' Screw


somewhere around this same period of time, invented the "helical Screw" which he envisioned as an irrigation device to raise water to a higher level. The helical screw became the basis for propellers and rotorblades. Archimedes also wrote that such a device may possibly carry man into the air.

Da Vinci's Helicopter Drawing

Leonardo Da Vinci

utilized Archimedes Screw atop his helicopter drawn around 1485 - 1490. The helical screw did become the basis for propellers and rotorblades

1784 -- Launoy & Bienvenu Helicopter Toy.

It had two rotors consisting of feathers stuck in corks and was driven by a string from a bow. The rotors rotated in opposite directions solving the problem of torque.

Launoy & Bienvenu Helicopter Toy

1907 -- Breguet-Richet Gyroplane No.1

On September 29, 1907, the Gyroplane No.1 was flown for the first time, but to an elevation of only 2 ft. It was not a free flight, as four men were used to steady the structure. It was quite unstable, but it was the first time that a rotary-wing device had lifted itself and a pilot into the air.

Breguet-Richet Gyroplane No1

Breguet-Richet Gyroplane No1

1907 -- Cornu Helicopter

Cornu's helicopter is widely credited with the first free flight of a rotary-wing aircraft when it took to the air on November 13, 1907. The machine had a rotor at either end, and the engine and pilot in the middle. Power was transmitted to the rotors by a drive belt that linked both rotors and spun them in opposite directions to cancel torque. Control was to be provided by cables that could alter the pitch of the rotor blades, and by moveable vanes at either end of the machine intended to direct the downwash of the rotors.

Cornu Helicopter

1918 -- Petrosky-Karman PKZ-2

Powered by three 90kW airplane engines, this captive observation helicopter was the creation of Stefan Petroczy, a lieutenant in the Austrian Army during World War I. At first the machine failed to perform, but young professor Theodore von Karman — who later emigrated and became a leading American aerodynamicist — joined the effort, and eventually the aircraft flew to a height of over 45m. Supported by two massive wooden propellers turning in opposite directions, the Petroczy-Von Karman marvel was intended to lift a pilot, observer, and fuel for an hour's flight. During flight the machine was anchored to the ground by outrigger cables. There is no record that it was developed beyond the experimental stage.
The PKZ-2 began flight trials on 2 April 1918. Initially fitted with three Gnome rotary engines of 75 kW (100 hp), these were found insufficient to maintain safety at any altitude and were replaced by le Rhone rotary engines of 89 kW (120 hp). In this form the PKZ-2 could rise to a height of over 50 m and hover for up to half an hour, although it was unstable and remained tethered on long cables.

Petroski-Karman observation platform

1922 -- Emile Berliner

an inventor famous for his invention of the flat gramaphone record, had experimented with intermeshing helicopters as early as 1907.In 1919, Emile Berliner's son, Henry Berliner, left the Army Air Service as an aerial photographer to work with his father on helicopter designs.
By 1922, Henry Berliner founded the Berliner Aircraft Company, with a focus on conventional aircraft. The Berliner Helicopter was successfully demonstrated throughout the 1920s, but interest was lost due to its limited controllability and engine-out abilities compared to the autogyro and conventional aircraft.
Berliner helicopter Also in 1922, Henry Berliner developed a helicopter based on a surplus Nieuport 23 fuselage with a 220 hp radial engine driving two wing mounted counter-rotating rotors. The rotorshafts could tilt slightly forward and backward relative to each other to control yaw. The pitch of the aircraft was controlled by a small tail-mounted propeller with a variable pitch mechanism. Roll control was from a small set of adjustable wing-mounted louvers in the rotor slipstream. High-speed forward flight was also stabilized by a conventional rudder and elevator control at the rear of the aircraft. In 1923, the Helicopter incorporated tri-plane wings to allow for gliding in case of an engine failure. The last example built in 1924 featured a biplane configuration with 20 ft rotors and a 1,850 lb gross weight.

Berliner helicopter 1919

The Berliners made further refinements to their hybrid design. The Model No. 5 craft was demonstrated in front of Navy officials and the press on Feb. 24, 1924. It could move at about 40 mph, rise to an altitude of 15 feet and turn with a radius of 150 feet.

Berliner No.5

1922 -- Cierva C.4 Autogiro

Juan De La Cierva’s Autogiro No. 4, later designated C.4, was first completed in April/May of 1922. It was tested for many months and crashed several times. It went through at least 15 changes. The last change made occurred after a failure of one of the flapping hinges.
Cierva’s earlier attempts all rolled and crashed due to dissymmetry of lift in his rigid rotors. The concept of freely flapping blades was first suggested by Charles Renard in 1904 and patented in France by Louis Breguet on October 28, 1908. The intent originally was to reduce the stresses in the rotor’s blades and cope with gyroscopic forces. It was Cierva that discovered the flapping of the blades would counter dissymmetry of lift between the advancing and retreating blades. Cierva was granted a Spanish patent for the concept on November 15, 1922.
The latest version of the C.4 had the rotor slightly offset and also had outboard ailerons to help with roll control. Sadly, the machine crashed on January 10, 1923 but not because of dissymmetry of lift as it rolled in the opposite direction. This was probably the test pilot over-controlling. Very encouraged, Cierva rebuilt the machine in one week. The most reliable evidence indicates that the first successful flight was on January 17, 1923. A first public flight was performed on January 22, before official Military and Aero Club observers.

Cierva C.4
Cierva C.4 in flight

1922 -- De Bothezat Helicopter

The four rotor machine was the first helicopter tested by the U. S. Air Force Rotary-wing division at Mc Cook Field in Dayton, Ohio. The first flight was on December 18,1922. The machine had four six-bladed rotors at the end of massive, bridge-like girders braced with piano wire. The craft had two vertical propellers for yaw control, and two additional three-bladed propellers mounted horizontally above the Le Rhone engine to provide airflow for cooling. The girders were angled such that the rotors tilted in towards the craft's center at an angle of five degrees to enhance stability. The aircraft had two control wheels, a control stick, and foot pedals for control, with each rotor featuring variable-pitch blades for individual collective control. The pilot workload was quite high.
After initial ground testing, the de Bothezat machine made its first flight on 18 December 1922, piloted by Major T.H. Bane of the Engineering Division, and hovered to a height of 6 feet. The propellers for lateral control were found to be useless, and removed. The original Le Rhône engine proved underpowered and was replaced by a Bently Rotary type. Over the next year, over one hundred flights were made, carrying up to four men hanging off the frame. It set Helicopter records for duration - 2 minutes 45 seconds, and altitude - 30 feet.The Army canceled the program in 1924, and the aircraft was scrapped.

De Bothezat HelicopterDeBothezat in flight

1923 -- Pescara No.3

This had four separate four-blade biplane rotors. In September 1923, Pescara almost became the first person to complete a 1km circuit, but the machine crashed and was severely damaged.
The next spring, four days after Oemichen's first FAI distance record, Pescara doubled it to 736m. On April 18, 1924 Pescara made a flight of 736 meters setting the new world record for distance in a straight line. Pescara’s machine had cyclic and pitch control. The pitch control was done by wing warping and allowed the machine to be set down gently in the case of an engine failure. This was the beginning of Autorotation.

Pescara helicopter No.3
Pescara in flight

1924 -- Oehmichen Helicopter

It had four two-bladed rotors. It also had five small horizontal propellers with variable and reversible pitch. The purpose of the propellers was to control the horizontal attitude in flight. On May 4, 1924, Oehmichen succeeded in flying the first one kilometer closed circuit course. On April 17, 1924 Oehmichen set the record for straight line distance of 525 meters.

Oehmichen Helicopter.jpgOemichen drawing.gif

1929 -- Florine Helicopter

This was the first tandem rotor helicopter and built in 1927. It made its first flight in 1929. In 1930 it was partially destroyed during a static trial following a failure in its mechanical transmission. In 1931 a second, lighter, design was built, and baptized "Type II". This model made many test flights, and eventually set an unofficial record flight duration of 9 minutes and 58 seconds. The flights began on April 12, 1933, and on October 25 of the same year, near the beech forest of Soignes, the aircraft piloted by Mr. Robert Collin, engineer at the Belgian Aeronautics Technical Service, officially beat the record for time in the air of 9 min 58 s. A few months later, in 1934, when tested in Haren the team tried to beat the record of altitude of 18 meters realized in Rome by the machine designed by Ascanio. During the attempt, there was a malfunction of one of the clutches of the transmission, which unbalanced the device which turned and crashed. The pilot, very well protected, got away without a scratch. The Florine II made more than thirty test flights between April 1933 and May 1934.

Florine helicopter
Florine in flight

1930 -- D’Asconio helicopter D’AT3

A relatively successful flight in a co axial helicopter, was conducted by the Italian Corradino D'Ascanio, who flew a distance of half a mile at an altitude of 59 ft (18 m) for 8 minutes and 45 seconds. The helicopter had two contra-rotating coaxial rotors, which were controlled by flaps on booms trailing each blade near its tip. The blades used flap hinges. The D’AT3 flew for the first time in 1930 at Ciampino Airport, near Rome. It won the records of height, distance and flight duration which remained unbeaten for some years.

D'Asconio helicopterD'Asconio helicopter in flight

1930 -- Buhl Pusher

The Buhl Aircraft Company was a US aircraft manufacturer founded in Detroit in 1925 which remained in operation until 1933. Buhl designed and manufactured the Buhl-Verville CA-3 Airster, the first aircraft to receive a US civil aviation type Certificate in March 1927. This was a commercial three seat open cockpit biplane suitable for carrying a couple of passengers, training student pilots and carrying light cargo. Other jobs such as crop dusting and aerial photography would be added later. Etienne Dormoy also designed the Buhl A-1 Autogyro in 1930, optimized for aerial photography, with a pusher engine located behind the pilot and room for a camera operator up front. Only one of these was built.

Buhl Pusher Autogyro
Buhl Pusher

1931 -- Pitcairn PCA-2

Harold F. Pitcairn Had developed his very sturdy Mailwing airplanes to service the airmail service he supplied on the east coast. Pitcairn had interest in Cierva’s Autogiro as a safer machine for flight. He purchased a Cierva C.8 in 1928. He bought the right to license Juan de la Cierva's patents in the United States for $300,000 in 1929 and formed the Pitcairn-Cierva Autogyro Company, hence the PCA designations. The PCA-2 was the first rotary-wing aircraft to achieve type certification in the United States. It was used in a number of high-profile activities including a landing on the White House lawn. The first flight across the United States in a rotorcraft was accomplished by John M Miller on 28 May 1931, in his PCA-2 named Missing Link. The most famous of the PCA-2s was the Miss Champion which is now in the EAA AirVenture Museum.

PCA-2 lands at Whitehouse
Miss Champion PCA-2

1931 Herrick HV-2A

The first successful convertiplane experiments began before the advent of the practical helicopter Gerard P. Herrick and his HV-2A in the 1930s. The HV-1 was ready for its first flight on November 6, 1931. After some conventional test hops in the biplane configuration, Merrill Lambert entered a glide at 4,000 feet altitude and at 3,500 feet unlocked the upper wing. After a few turns, however, the wing slowed down, resulting in a complete loss of control. As the aircraft gyrated wildly and then plunged straight toward the ground, Lambert bailed out, but his parachute failed to open properly and he was killed. Analysis of the wreckage revealed that the unlocked wing had teetered hard against its bearings, shattering them and then striking the propeller.
Herrick then developed the HV-2A. the HV-2A had an internal bungee cord in its pylon. Two volunteers slipped ropes over the rotor and wound it backward two turns, after which it was released, achieving an initial rotation of 60 rpm. Using this method, similar to the way a model airplane is launched, and gunning the engine, the HV-2A could take off as an Autogyro in 60 feet. It could also land at 12 mph, stopping just a few feet from where it touched down.
The HV-2A was completed in September 1933, Herrick had so depleted his finances that he could not test fly it until late 1936. On July 25, 1937, test pilot George Townson put the aircraft through several successful in-flight conversions from Biplane to Gyroplane operation, after which he gave its first public demonstration at Philadelphia’s Boulevard Airport on July 30, 1937.
The aircraft is presently in the possession of the Smithsonian Institute.

Herrick HV-1Herrick HV-2A flying

1933 -- Breguet-Dorand Laboratoire

A coaxial helicopter with counter-rotating rotors. The Gyroplane was badly damaged in a ground accident at the end of 1933. Rebuilt with extensive modifications and tested conservatively on the ground, it resumed flight tests in June 1935. Breguet then audaciously committed it to maneuvering, speed, altitude, and endurance requirements far in excess of anything so far accomplished by a helicopter.
This proved that articulated blades (blades linked to the rotor hub by flapping hinges) could be used in a helicopter. The aircraft also used cyclic pitch for lateral and longitudinal control and collective pitch for lift control.

Breguet-Dorand Gyroplane

1937 -- Focke-Acheglis FA-61. Also known as the Focke-Wulf FW-61

The first of two FA-61s was civil registered D-EBVU and on its maiden flight remained airborne for 45 seconds. On 10 May 1937, it became the first manned helicopter in aviation history to demonstrate an engine off landing using autorotation. In 1937 Fraulein Hanna Reitsch, Germany's famous woman test pilot, became the first woman to pilot a helicopter when she took the controls.

Focke-Wulf FA-61

In February 1938 Hanna flew an FA-61 from Stendal to Berlin, a distance of 68 miles and then demonstrated the machine inside the Deutschland Halle, where the floor area of 25,000 square feet made possible fully controlled forward, backward and sideways flights without any assistance from wind. Later the same year another pilot took the FAI-accredited world distance record in a straight line to 143.07 miles, while in early 1939 a height of 11,243 feet was reached.

Foche FA 61
Hanna Reitsch

1936 -- Flettner FL 184

One prototype, the Fl 184 V1 D-EDVE was built. The aircraft was destroyed as a result of pilot error in the course of its maiden flight in December 1936.
flettner-fl 184
In January 1935 Flettner received a development contract from the RLM for an "experimental autogiro" (autogiro with three-blade rotor). Three so-called "SV-Types" were planned. Inspection of the mockup took place in June 1935. Only The Fl 184's external shape still exhibited a certain similarity to the C 30 autogiro being built under license by Focke-Wulf at that time. Power was provided by a Bramo Sh.14A engine driving a conventional propeller.

Fl 185

The development contract for the Fl 185 was issued by the RLM in February 1937; two SV-Types were planned. It was given the designation "Helicopter Conversion 184" in the Aircraft Development Program, because the planned Fl 184 V3 was used in the construction of the Fl 185 V1. The project was financed with the insurance sum received from the destroyed Fl 184 V1 and a grant of approximately RM 50,000 from the RLM. Mockup inspection took place in April 1937.
The Fl 185 was a gyroplane equipped with a three-blade rotor; torque balance was achieved by means of variable-pitch pusher propellers driven by extension shafts located at the ends of outriggers mounted on each side of the fuselage. The starboard propeller produced backward thrust, the port forward, so that the total moment exerted on the fuselage balanced that of the main rotor.
The sole prototype built was the Fl 184 V1 D-ELFT, which carried out a number of flights m 1938. Results were favorable, although all tests were made in close proximity to the ground.

Flettner FL 185

1939 -- Flettner FL-265

In 1937 Flettner began to design the first helicopter to use intermeshing contra-rotating synchronized rotors. The following year the German Navy gave Flettner an order for six of these single-seater helicopters, powered by a 7-cylinder air-cooled engine to drive its two intermeshing two-bladed rotors and with an inertia damping system to reduce the shake of the control stick. The Fl 265 first flight took place in May 1939. During this flight the blades struck each other and the helicopter was destroyed. A similar fate overtook the second one, because the pilot had for-gotten to fill his fuel tanks. The remaining four Fl 265s in the original contract were extensively tested on the deck of a cruiser with such encouraging results that work was speeded up on the Fl 282, a second intermeshing rotor helicopter to embody the experience acquired during the tests of the Fl 265.

Flettner FL 265

1941 -- Flettner FL-282

Service trials of the Fl 265 were more than satisfactory, and plans were made for series production; but by this time work was well advanced on a later model, the Fl 282, which could carry a men and was more versatile. The RLM therefore agreed to wait for the Fl 282, to hasten whose development it ordered thirty prototypes and fifteen pre-production aircraft in spring 1940. Maiden flight was made in 1941. The first three prototypes were completed as single-seaters and had fully enclosed cabins made up of a series of optically flat Plexiglas panels, faired-in rotor pylons and well-contoured fuselages. The first free flight was made by the Fl 282 V2 on October 30, 1941.

Flettner FL 282

1936 -- Pitcairn AC-35 Roadable Autogyro

The aircraft design process started in 1935. The Experimental Development Section of the Bureau of Air Commerce contracted the building of a roadable aircraft based on a PA-22 Autogyro from Pitcairn Autogiro Company. The vehicle could fly at high speed in the air, and drive at up to 25 mph on the ground with its rotors folded back. Six other companies were contracted to produce a roadable aircraft, but the AC-35 was the only one that met all the requirements.
The AC-35 had side-by-side seating with a small baggage compartment. The fuselage was a combination of steel tube in front, and wood construction in the tail with fabric covering overall. The engine was rear mounted and power could be shifted between the propeller and the rear wheel. The front wheels were steerable.
On March 26, 1936, the AC-35 was flown by test pilot James G. Ray with counter rotating propellers. These were later replaced with a single four blade propeller. On October 2, 1936, Ray landed the AC-35 in a downtown park in Washington, D.C., where it was displayed, On October 26, 1936, The aircraft was converted to roadable configuration. Ray drove it to the main entrance of the Commerce Building where it was accepted by John H. Geisse, chief of the Aeronautics Branch. It was driven to Bolling Field for additional testing and review by Hap Arnold.
The aircraft was tested by the Autogiro Company of America at Pitcairn Field until 1942. In 1950 the Bureau of Air Commerce transferred the AC-35 to the Smithsonian Institution.

Pitcairn AC-35Pitcairn AC-35
Pitcairn AC-35

1938 -- Pitcairn PA-36 Roadable Autogyro

Its predecessor was the AC-35 which was designed for the U. S. Department of Commerce. The PA-36 had an all metal fuselage and rear engine. The front wheels are steerable for road use. The pilot could shift power from the prop to the single rear wheel. Unlike the AC-35, the PA-36 was capable of jump take off. For road travel, the blades were folded back.

Pitcairn PA-36PA-36 jump takeoff
PA-36 jump takeoff

1939 -- Sikorsky VS 300

On September 14, 1939, the VS-300, the world’s first practical helicopter, took flight at Stratford, Connecticut. Designed by Igor Sikorsky and built by the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division of the United Aircraft Corporation, the helicopter was first fitted with three tail rotors. The first flight, on a tether, lasted just a few seconds. The first "free" flight of the VS-300 was on 13 May 1940. The VS-300 was the first successful single lifting rotor helicopter in the United States. The control of the VS-300 is obtained by changing the "pitch" of the three auxiliary rotors. Moving the control stick from side to side differentially changes the pitch in the outboard horizontal auxiliary rotors causing a lateral reaction. By moving the stick fore and aft the pitch on the two horizontal auxiliary rotors is changed simultaneously in the same direction, thereby achieving longitudinal reaction. Rudder pedals connected to the pitch control of the centered vertical auxiliary rotor countered rotor torque and allowed yaw control.

Sikorsky VS 300Sikorsky VS 300_single tail rotor

With floats attached, it became the first practical amphibious helicopter. The first free flight took place on May 13, 1940. Testing continued and on May 6, 1941 Sikorsky piloted the VS-300 to a new world helicopter endurance record of 1 hour, 32 minutes and 26 seconds. The VS-300 underwent several major configuration changes until December 8, 1941 when it was flown in its final configuration with a single main lifting rotor with full cyclic-pitch for both roll and pitch control and a single tail rotor for both directional control and anti-torque.

Sikorsky VS 300 on floats

1940 -- Sikorsky VS-316

The VS-316, was developed from the famous experimental VS-300 helicopter publicly demonstrated in 1940. The VS-316 was designated the XR-4, under the United States Army Air Force for tests at Wright Field which is now Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The XR-4 made its initial flight on 13 January 1942 and was accepted by the Army on 30 May 1942. The XR-4 exceeded all the previous helicopter endurance, altitude and airspeed records that had been set before it. The XR-4 completed a 761-mile cross country flight from Connecticut to Wright Field, Ohio, set a service ceiling of 12,000 feet, 100 flight hours without a major incident, and an airspeed approaching 90 mph.

Sikorsky VS-316Sikorsky XR-4Sikorsky in R-4

1940 -- Hafner Rotochute H.8

In 1940, Raoul Hafner proposed the use of a single-place strap-on rotor kite in place of a conventional parachute, to deliver a soldier accurately to a battlefield. The proposal was made to the British Air Ministry as there was a shortage of silk for parachute manufacture. The design of the man-carrying machine known as a evolved from November 1940 and throughout 1941. The Rotachute Mark I design was a tubular steel framework with a single seat, rubber-mounted rotor hub, hanging control column, skid undercarriage, and a self-inflating rear fairing made of rubberised fabric with integral tailplane. The two wooden rotor blades had individual flapping hinges allowing them to account for dissymmetry of lift. Some full size rotor trials were carried out using a pivoting rig mounted on a Ford flatbed truck, and full-size unmanned airframes were used in ground-based and in-flight tests.


On February 11, 1942, the prototype Rotachute was first manually flown from a wheeled trolley while under tow behind a Humber car after starting the rotor by hand. On that and on a second test, the machine rolled over after landing, sustaining damage to the blades but not to the pilot. The flexible tail section provided inadequate directional stability, and the Rotachute Mark II had a longer tail section braced with wooden formers, plus two landing wheels mounted below the center of gravity.
On May 29 1942, the first flight of the Rotachute Mark II was achieved while under tow behind a Jeep, and several more towed flights were also successful. Meanwhile, the Mark III had been produced, with a tail section comprising a wooden framework covered in doped linen fabric plus a rigid tailplane. Starting on 2 June 1942, the Rotachute Mark III was flown at heights up to 100 ft while under tow behind a Jeep. On June 17, 1942, a Rotachute Mark III was air-towed behind a Tiger Moth on a 300 ft tow line. After two towed flights, the Rotachute was released at an altitude of 200 ft and made the first manned free flight and controlled landing. Further free flights were made from altitudes up to 3,900 ft Additional directional stability was achieved in the Rotachute Mark IV, that introduced endplates onto the rigid tailplanes.
Although the Rotachute concept had proved to be practical, the operational requirement for such a machine never materialized. About eight Rotachutes were constructed, most being progressively converted to Mark III and then to Mark IV specifications. They continued to be flown in ground-based and in-flight trials until late 1943 to help research flight characteristics for a follow-on project, the Hafner Rotabuggy.

Hafner RotachuteHafner Rotachute flying

1942 -- Hafner Rotobuggy M.L. 10/42 Flying Jeep

The Rotobuggy was a British experimental aircraft that was essentially a Willys MB combined with a rotor kite, developed with the intention of producing a way of air-dropping off-road vehicles. It was designed by Raoul Hafner of the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment (AFEE) after their development of the Rotachute enjoyed some success. The prototype was built by the R. Malcolm & Co. Ltd in 1942 The first trial was conducted on 16 November 1943, with the unit being towed behind a Diamond T lorry, but the lorry could not get enough speed to put the Rotabuggy in the air. A more powerful vehicle, a supercharged 4.5-litre Bentley automobile, was used on November 27 to finally allow the machine to become airborne and in test could obtain glide speeds of 45 mph. Later tests were made towed behind an Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley bomber. Although initial tests showed that the Rotabuggy was prone to severe vibration at speeds greater than 45 miles per hour. With improvements, the Rotabuggy achieved a flight speed of 70 mph on February 1, 1944. The last test flight occurred in September 1944, where the unit flew for 10 minutes at an altitude of 400 feet and a speed of 65 mph after being released by a Whitley bomber, and was described as "highly satisfactory". However, the introduction of gliders that could carry vehicles (such as the Waco Hadrian and Airspeed Horsa) made the Rotabuggy obsolete and further development was cancelled.

Hafner RotabuggyHafner Rotabuggy testing

1942 -- Bell Helicopter model 30

The first full-sized helicopter Bell produced was the Bell 30, which conducted its maiden flight on December 29, 1942. The machine saw four different iterations: No.1 The original Bell 30, built with an open-frame tubular steel framework and an open cockpit had four widely splayed undercarriage legs with skids at the ends, made from 3 in Aluminum alloy tubing. First flown on 29 December 1942, test flying continued until a serious crash in September 1943.
The No.1 prototype's first serious mishap occurred near the very end of 1942 in captive testing, when a Bell corporate pilot asked to try flying it, there was no seat belt. this captive flight (tethered so it could only rise a couple feet) resulted in the rotor system "going through ground resonance", as designer Arthur Young had warned about, resulted in bucking the pilot up into the disc of the rotor blades, luckily only breaking an arm. The first free flight of No.1 was carried out on June 26, 1943;
No.1A rebuilt after the crash with a strutted tricycle undercarriage with nose wheel, and semi-enclosed cockpit, rejoined the test program in March 1944.
No.2 The second aircraft was built with a new three wheeled undercarriage, semi-monocoque fuselage, new tail rotor mounting and fully enclosed cockpit for pilot and passenger.
No.3 The third aircraft was built with a triangular-section welded tubular steel tailboom, four-wheeled undercarriage, full set of instruments, but a completely open cockpit. Performance and handling of this aircraft were found to be much better than its predecessors, but the open cockpit was viewed as a major handicap. Bell company officials who flew in it found the experience to be thoroughly frightening.The solution to the open cockpit was the plexiglas bubble that was to become iconic on Bell 47/H-13 production aircraft.
The Model 30 1A, named Genevieve, is now on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Bell model 30 testbedBell model 30 testbed
bellmodel30 in flight

1946 -- Bell 47

The Bell 47 is a single rotor single engine light helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter. It was based on the third Bell 30 prototype, which was the company's first helicopter designed by Arthur M. Young. The 47 became the first helicopter certified for civilian use on 8 March 1946.
The most common model, the 47G introduced in 1953, can be recognized by the full bubble enclosure, exposed welded-tube tail boom, saddle fuel tanks, and skid landing gear. A later three-seat 47H had an enclosed cabin with full cowling and monocoque tail boom. It was an attempt to market a "luxury" version of the basic 47G. Relatively few were produced. On May 13, 1949 a Bell 47 set an altitude record of 18,550 feet.
On September 17, 1952 Bell pilot Elton J. Smith set a world distance record for piston helicopters of 1,217 miles by flying nonstop from Hurst, Texas, to Buffalo, New York.

Bell Model 47BBell 47G
Bell 47G in flight

This is only a beginning - please return and discover more as this page expands.