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Engineering Analysis of the 1907 Cornu Helicopter

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Paul Cornu (1881–1944), a Frenchman from Lisieux, along with his father Jules and brother Jacques, undertook the development of several rotating‐wing aircraft concepts from 1906 to 1908. Their work encompassed the development of flying models, attempts at flying a piloted helicopter, the construction of a coaxial rotor testbed, and the conceptual design of a convertiplane. Paul and Jules Cornu's aeronautical patents included a method of flight control using differentially activated louvers, and a cyclic blade pitch system using a form of swashplate. Many have claimed that Paul Cornu first successfully flew his tandem‐rotor helicopter during November of 1907. However, an engineering analysis shows that any claim to successful piloted flight, free of the ground and under positive control, is extremely dubious. Although the Cornus were clearly successful in building and flying a model of their helicopter, besides not having a suitable engine available to them, what they lacked was the necessary understanding of rotor aerodynamics and a means of producing effective flight control, to successfully realize a piloted helicopter concept.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Aerospace Engineering, Glenn L. Martin Institute of Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of the American Helicopter Society is the world's only scientific journal dedicated to vertical flight technology. It is a peer-reviewed technical journal published quarterly by AHS International and presents innovative papers covering the state-of-the-art in all disciplines of rotorcraft design, research and development. (Please note that AHS members receive significant discounts on articles and subscriptions.)

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