Introduction

When the autogiro first appeared in the U.S., the News Media called it a "windmill plane." Although it did resemble a windmill the principle by which it flew is just the opposite of the reason that a windmill rotates. The blades or vanes of a windmill are PUSHED around by the air that passes through. In other words they follow the air. The blades of the autogiro rotor turn INTO the air. A delicate balance of the forces of lift and drag produce a force that PULLS the blade forward. The phenomenon is called AUTOROTATION. The engine of the Autogiro was not connected to the rotor in flight. It only pulled the craft through the air for takeoff and climb.

The inventor of the autogiro was Juan de la Cierva who did most of his development work in Spain. His first successful flight was made at Getafe Airdome in Spain, January 9, 1923. The word autogiro was coined by Cierva. It was initially a proprietary word and trademark. Random House dictionary showed autogiro spelled with a capital "A" to be given to craft built by Cierva or his followers. When spelled without the capital it referred to craft which flew with unpowered rotors.

During the course of his work he licensed most of the prominent aircraft manufacturers in Europe to build autogiros under his patents. Harold Pitcairn, builder of the famous Pitcairn Mailwing, obtained a license to build and develop the autogiro in the United States and to sublicense other manufacturers. This is the point at which this story begins.

First flight of the Cierva Autogiro at Getaffe Airport in Madrid Spain, Gomez Spencer, Pilot, January 9, 1923.

(Cierna Photo)

First flight of the Cierva Autogiro at Getaffe Airport in Madrid Spain, Gomez Spencer, Pilot, January 9, 1923.

(Cierna Photo)

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