History of the Helicopter

Igor Sikorsky and other early pioneers

Flying Helicopter during Obama Inauguration
Driendl Group/ Stone/ Getty Images

During the mid-1500's, Italian inventor Leonardo Da Vinci made drawings of an ornithopter flying machine that some experts say inspired the modern day helicopter. In 1784, French inventors named Launoy and Bienvenue created a toy with a rotary-wing that could lift and fly and proved the principle of helicopter flight.

Origins of the Name

In 1863, the French writer Ponton D'Amecourt was the first person to coin the term "helicopter" from the words "hello" for spiral and "pter" for wings.

The very first piloted helicopter was invented by Paul Cornu in 1907. However, this design was not successful. French inventor Etienne Oehmichen was more successful. He built and flew a helicopter one kilometer in 1924. Another early helicopter that flew for a decent distance was the German Focke-Wulf Fw 61, invented by an unknown inventor.

Igor Sikorsky

Igor Sikorsky is considered to be the "father" of helicopters not because he was the first to invent it, but because he invented the first successful helicopter upon which further designs were based upon.

One of aviation's greatest designers, Russian-born Igor Sikorsky began work on helicopters as early as 1910. By 1940, Igor Sikorsky's successful VS-300 had become the model for all modern single-rotor helicopters. He also designed and built the first military helicopter, the XR-4, which he delivered to Colonel Franklin Gregory of the U.S. Army.

Igor Sikorsky's helicopters had the control capabilities to fly safely forwards and backward, up and down and sideways. In 1958, Igor Sikorsky's rotorcraft company made the world's first helicopter that had a boat hull and could land and takeoff from water. It could also float on water.

Stanley Hiller

In 1944, American inventor Stanley Hiller Jr.

made the first helicopter with all-metal rotor blades that were very stiff. They allowed the helicopter to fly at speeds much faster than before. In 1949, Stanley Hiller piloted the first helicopter flight across the United States, piloting a helicopter that he invented called the Hiller 360.

In 1946, Arthur Young of the Bell Aircraft company, designed the Bell Model 47 helicopter, the first helicopter to have a full bubble canopy.

SH-60 Seahawk

The UH-60 Black Hawk was fielded by the Army in 1979. The Navy received the SH-60B Seahawk in 1983 and the SH-60F in 1988.

HH-60G Pave Hawk

The Pave Hawk is a highly modified version of the Army Black Hawk helicopter and features an upgraded communications and navigation suite that includes an integrated inertial navigation/global positioning/Doppler navigation system, satellite communications, secure voice, and Have Quick communications.

CH-53E Super Stallion

The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion is the largest helicopter in the western world.

CH-46D/E Sea Knight

The CH-46 Sea Knight was first procured in 1964.

AH-64D Longbow Apache

The AH-64D Longbow Apache is the most advanced, versatile, survivable, deployable and maintainable multi-role combat helicopter in the world.

Paul E. Williams (U.S. patent #3,065,933)

On November 26th 1962, African American inventor Paul E. Williams patented a helicopter named the Lockheed Model 186 (XH-51). It was a compound experimental helicopter and only 3 units were built.

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Bellis, Mary. "History of the Helicopter." ThoughtCo, Apr. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/history-of-the-helicopter-1991899. Bellis, Mary. (2017, April 29). History of the Helicopter. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-helicopter-1991899 Bellis, Mary. "History of the Helicopter." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-helicopter-1991899 (accessed December 14, 2017).