General Knowledge Trivia Quiz
Who was the first person to carry out sustained helicopter flight?
Your answer — B) Gaetano Crocco of Italy — was incorrect.
Cornu was a French bicycle maker. On November 13, 1907, he became the first person to fly vertically in a heavier than air machine, although he didn’t exactly slip the surly bonds of earth. His helicopter “flew” for just 20 seconds, rising to about knee height. While the innovation of a second counter-rotating blade gave the craft enough stability to allow what was technically free flight, men were at hand to provide extra stabilization, for which purpose they held sticks attached to the machine. Gaetano Crocco was the inventor, in 1906, of a “cyclic pitch” mechanism, which allows each blade of a rotor to take on different angles of attack at different points in its revolution. Cyclic pitch controls greatly improved the stability and maneuverability of helicopters. John Newton Williams and his collaborator Emile Berliner performed a series of experiments in 1908 that improved somewhat on Cornu’s results. Boris Yuriev, working in 1912, was one of the first to apply two key innovations: the tail rotor (with which Berliner had experimented several years earlier) and cyclic pitch controls. However, his craft was underpowered and did not fly successfully. The first person to fly a helicopter over a distance of at least one kilometer (0.6 miles) was Etienne Oehmichen of France, in 1920.