Today In History: June 26th 1936, The World’s First Practical Helicopter Lifts Off


Victoria Maduabuchi

The concept of the helicopter has been envisioned by man for centuries, perhaps most famously by Leonardo Da Vinci who sketched a helicopter design long before we had the ability to produce them.

A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forward, backward, and laterally.

These attributes allow helicopters to be used in congested or isolated areas where fixed-wing aircraft and many forms of VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft cannot perform.

Helicopters were developed and built during the first half-century of flight, with the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 being the first operational helicopter in 1936.

The Germans were credited with building the first practical helicopter, the “Focke Wulf FW 61”.

This was flown for the first time by test pilot Ewald Rohlfs for 28 seconds on 26th june 1936, and went on to set a number of world records before the start of world war two.

It utilized the airframe of an airplane that was modified to provide two opposing rotors, the original engine propeller being cut down to provide just enough cooling air for the engine.

Sceptics thought initially that the propeller aided the aircraft to fly more like an autogyro but this was dismissed when the aircraft was seen to be capable of vertical landings.

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