Thursday, September 3, 2009


What the hell is that thing? It looks like a half plane, half helicopter, half glider! This mad-scientist’s twist on aviation is called the autogyro.

Invented by Juan de la Cierva in 1919, the autgyro made its first successful flight in 1923. Similar to helicopters, autogyros use a rotor to develop lift. Yet while a helicopter’s rotor is rotated by an engine, an autogyro’s rotor is self-driven by aerodynamic forces in a process called autorotation.

The aircraft derives its propulsion from an engine driven prop similar to that found on an airplane. You may also hear autogyros called by names such as gyroplanes, gyrocopters, or rotaplanes.

Today’s autogyros appear in two styles:

1. Pusher- More common where the engine and attached prop are located rear of the pilot, while in the latter they are located in the front.

2. Tractor- Earlier autogyros were of this style until the advent of the helicopter but have lately gained popularity due to their unique appearance.

The aircraft carries historical significance when multiple countries utilized the technology in World War II. Germany invented a smaller gyroglider, the Focke-Achgelis Fa 330, which was towed by U-boats to provide aerial surveillance.

Focke-Achgelis Fa 330

The Japanese developed the Kayaba Ka-1 used in reconnaissance and small, coastal submarine attacks. Each autogyro would carry a pilot and a spotter where their only weapons were small depth charges thrown by hand. There was only one recorded submarine kill by an autogyro in all of World War II.

Autogyros can be widely seen in today’s culture with appearances in H.G. Well’s Things to Come and most notably in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

My question today is, “What’s the craziest flying contraption you’ve ever seen?” Describe it in the comments box or leave a link to a video/picture somewhere else on the web. See you all later and hooray for French ingenuity!

P.S.-- If you’re really intrigued by how these machines function but don’t have the money to dish out for one, visit this page for information to their workings and/or remote controlled products.

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