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Cornu helicopter

By Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia,

Cornu helicopter
Role Experimental aircraft
Manufacturer Paul Cornu
Designed by Paul Cornu
First flight 13 November 1907
Number built 1

The Cornu helicopter was an experimental helicopter built in France in 1907 and widely credited with the first free flight of a rotary-wing aircraft when it took to the air on 13 November. Built by bicycle-maker Paul Cornu, it was an open-framework structure built around a curved steel tube that carried 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. Control was to be provided by cables that could alter the pitch of the rotor blades, and by steerable vanes at either end of the machine intended to direct the downwash of the rotors.

The Cornu helicopter is reported to have made a number of short hops, rising perhaps 1.5 or 2 metres into the air (5-7 ft) and staying aloft for something less than one minute. This was long enough for Cornu to learn that the control systems he had designed were ineffective, and he abandoned the machine soon thereafter.

Modern engineering analyses have demonstrated that the Cornu helicopter could not have been capable of sustained flight. Nevertheless, in order to commemorate the centenary of his achievement, a replica of the helicopter was constructed by the ESTACA school of engineering and presented to the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace where it was placed on display on 15 December 2007.


Full-length photograph of the helicopter
Full-length photograph of the helicopter

General characteristics

  • Crew: One pilot
  • Main rotor diameter: 2× 6.00 m (19 ft 8 in)
  • Main rotor area: 56.5 m² (608 ft²)
  • Gross weight: 260 kg (573 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Antoinette, 18 kW (24 hp)


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Published - July 2009

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