• Gyroplane: How did it come about?

    Polish gyroplane

Helicopters are part of our reality, they are used in the military, medical field… But not so many years ago, that wasn’t the case.

And did you know that this changed thanks to a Spaniard? Juan de la Cierva y Codorníu is the genius behind the invention of the gyroplane, precursor of the modern helicopter we know today.

In this article we will explain who Juan de la Cierva y Codorníu was, one of the people responsible for making the helicopter a safe and reliable means of transport.

Let’s take flight!

Who was the creator of the gyroplane?

The helicopter and the gyroplane are two well-known names in aeronautics, but do you know Juan de la Cierva? Born in Murcia, Spain, in 1895, he is considered one of the great figures of aviation.

He is the father of the gyroplane, which years later led to the development of helicopters as we know them today.

From a very young age, he showed a passion for aviation and knew that he wanted to devote himself to it.

First steps towards the development of the helicopter

Together with two friends, De la Cierva founded the company B.C.D., a pioneer in aeronautical research.

He was not yet 16 years old when Juan flew the “crab”, the BCD-1 biplane model. Curiously, the name of the project is due to the orange colour of the aircraft.

De la Cierva continued working on the construction of his first gyroplane, the ‘Cierva C1’, which, unfortunately, never flew. The gyroscopic effect caused the craft to fall and the rotor did not achieve a high speed.

Military Aviation gave wings to the gyroplane

The following models, the C2 and C3, were also failures. With them, they managed to make small jumps of about two metres, but they failed to take flight.

But Juan did not take this as a defeat! The next model, the C4, was tested at Cuatro Vientos Aerodrome. And thanks to a 110 hp Le Rhône 9Ja engine, it took off with a lift of about 30 metres.

Seeing that the engine was the right one, he tested it on the next model, the C5, which was able to climb to a height of 200 metres. The gyroplane had been created!

Spanish Military Aviation did not miss the opportunity to build the C6 version. And in December 1923, the gyroplane managed to make a trip of about 12 kilometres.

Provement of a model of the gyroplane

The Cierva Autogiro Company

London saw the birth of The Cierva Autogiro Company. Juan decided to leave Spain, his home country did not offer him enough help, and he took the decision to found the company in Great Britain.

Thanks to The Autogiro Company, the C19 began to be built in series, and its patent was sold to France, Germany and Japan.

In 1932, the gyroplane was perfected and the final model, the C30, was capable of vertical take-off.

This model was used by Argentina, France, the Soviet Union, England, Austria, Italy, Belgium and Yugoslavia.

Juan was a natural!

  • Juan de la Cierva working on his project

Juan de la Cierva, father of the gyroplane and the helicopter

Juan de la Cierva died in a plane crash in 1936, while travelling in a passenger plane between London and Amsterdam.

In his memory, the Juan de la Cierva National Research Award was created in 2001, and his name remains in the history of aviation as an essential figure.

Juan de la Cierva was undoubtedly the father of the gyroplane and the helicopter. Without him, their subsequent development would have been very different and complicated.

If you liked this article and would like to continue learning about other important names in aviation, such as the Wright Brothers, we recommend that you take a look at our aviation blog.

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