26.06.

1936: The First Flight of the First Functional Helicopter

1936: The First Flight of the First Functional Helicopter
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/Fw 61 on a Deutsche Bundespost postage stamp, 1979

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 26 June 1936
  • The Focke-Wulf Fw 61 is considered the first practical, functional helicopter. It had two rotors, which revolved in opposite directions. The first flight was performed by pilot Ewald Rohlfs, during Hitler's rule in Germany, and a few months before the famous Berlin Olympic Games.

This day marked the first flight ot the German helicopter – the Focke-Wulf Fw 61. It was designed by engineer Henrich Focke, who founded the company known as “Focke-Wulf”.

The Focke-Wulf Fw 61 had two rotors, which revolved in opposite directions. This solved the problem of torque-reaction.

This is also the reason a single-rotor helicopter must have another small propeller on its tail. It had 160-horsepower engine (with a volume of 7,690 cubic centimeters), and could carry up to 950 pounds, similar to an average car.

The first flight was performed by pilot Ewald Rohlfs, during Hitler’s rule in Germany, and a few months before the famous Berlin Olympic Games.

An even more interesting flight was performed by the famous German pilot Hanna Reitsch in 1938.

She demonstrated the first indoor flight with a  Focke-Wulf Fw 61 helicopter in the arena (“Deutschlandhalle”) in Berlin.

The Focke-Wulf Fw 61 achieved a world record, i.e. estalished an altitude record of 3,427 meters in 1938. Its flight demonstrations were particularly interesting.

For example, when the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 achieved a certain height, its pilot turned off the engine, and landed using autorotation – a state of flight where the main rotor system of a helicopter turns by the action of air moving up through the rotor.

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