Autogyros – A Unique and Useful Aircraft

June 25, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

On 9 January 1923, the first Autogyro took to the air at the Cuatro Vientos Airfield – a small airport in Spain, and with the launch a new breed of aircraft was the created. Flown by its inventor Juan de la Cierva y Codorniu, the autogyro would become known by names such as Gyroplane, Rotaplane and Gyrocopter, and even though it flies with the support of a rotor the autogyro is more akin to a type of aircraft and not a helicopter.

To most observers, it would seem that the Gyroplane is a form of helicopter, but on closer inspection various differences are noticeable, distinguishing it from its close relatives. This type of rotaplane or rotorcraft uses a rotor to lift the aircraft off the ground. What separates the Autogyro from a helicopter is the fact that once in the air the autogyro needs engine power for flight, the same as any fixed wing aircrafts.

An Autogyro can take off from a helipad but does not have the capability to hover. It is for this reason that helicopters took over from Gyroplanes. The rotor that is found on helicopters id powered by an engine, whereas the Autogyro’s rotor uses a mechanism called autorotation. Autorotation is achieved by wind that passes through the rotor, causing it to spin. Therefore, the Autogyro needs a form of propulsion to keep it in the air. It is capable of flying slowly due to the autorotation system.

Yes, a new form of transport had been born. It started the search of an aircraft that could fulfill tasks that the airplane was unable to, and it is through the invention of the autogyro, that the helicopter was born. As the helicopter became more advanced, the autogyro started to fade into the pages of history.

There are two companies that are planning to revive the Autogyro to its former glory, though not on a large scale, and certainly not with outclassing the helicopter in mind. The Autogyro had many safe and sustainable capabilities that airplanes still do not have today, such as not being able to stall at low speeds. With the introduction of modern technology this wonderful invention could be seen gracing the skies again.

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