Helicopter Facts

  • Toy helicopters have been around for centuries, and those made by air pioneer Sir George Cayley in the early 19th century are the most famous.
  • On 13 November 1907 a primitive helicopter with two sets of rotors lifted French mechanic Paul Cornu off the ground for 20 seconds.
  • The problem with pioneer helicopters was control. The key was to vary the pitch of the rotor blades.
  • In 1937 German designer Heinrich Focke built an aircraft with two huge variable pitch rotors instead of wings and achieved a controlled hover. Months later, German Anton Flettner built the first true helicopter.
  • Focke and Flettner’s machines had two rotors turning in opposite directions to prevent torque reaction. In 1939, Russian-born American Igor Sikorsky solved the problem by adding a tail rotor.
  • The Jesus nut that holds the main rotor to the shaft got its name because pilots said, “Oh Jesus, if that nut comes off…”.
  • The biggest helicopter was the Russian Mil Mi-12 Homer of 1968 which could lift 40,204 kg up to 2255 m.
  • The fastest helicopter is the Westland Lynx, which flew at 402 km/h on 6 August 1986.
  • The Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche unveiled in 1999 is the first helicopter using stealth technology. It is made of carbon-fiber and other composite materials, and the rotor hub is hidden.