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 inventor, 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 two words "helico" 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 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 invented the first. He is called that because he invented the first successful helicopter, upon which further designs were based.

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, XR-4, which he delivered to Colonel Franklin Gregory of the U.S. Army.

Igor Sikorsky's helicopters had the control to fly safely forwards and backwards, 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 the water.

Stanley Hiller

In 1944, American inventor Stanley Hiller, Jr. made the first helicopter with all metal rotorblades that were very stiff. They allowed helicopter to fly at speeds much faster than before. In 1949, Stanley Hiller piloted the first helicopter flight across the United States, flying 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.

Continue > Army Helicopters

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 which features an upgraded communications and navigation suite that includes an integrated inertial navigation/global positioning/Doppler navigation systems, 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, Lockheed Model 186 (XH-51). It was a compound experimental helocopter and only 3 units were built.