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29th of June, 1877 (or 1878)

On this day in aviation history in 1877 or 1878 (different sources give different years) a helicopter took to the sky. (The Museo Nazionale Scienza e Technologia Da Vinci, who has the helicopter in question in its possession states 1877 as the year, that is what we will use in this blog)

Enrico Forlanini's steam-powered helicopter


The Italian engineer Enrico Forlanini (13 December 1848 – 9 October 1930) designed the aircraft after completing his studies at the University of Milan. He was an active designer in the field of helicopters, aircraft, airships and hydrofoil ships and made several interesting designs.

One of them, the helicopter featured in the picture above. It used steam power to become airborne and stay aloft. As a steam engine was too heavy it was driven by a small engine that was powered by steam from a reservoir. In June 1877, in a park in Milan enthusiasts, engineers and technicians gathered to see the flight of Forlannii's helicopter. The craft took off successfully, reached an altitude of approximately 13 meters. Whit a decaying steam pressure the craft the aircraft slowly stelled back on the ground in the park at the spot where it had lifted off 20 seconds before. Besides helicopter, he also designed several "Dirigibles", what we would now call airships. The first airship he made was the F.1 "Leonardo da Vinci", some facts on this airship:

  • Designed: 1900-1901[3]

  • Maiden flight: 2 July 1909

  • Flights: 38, total distance 850 km.

  • Longest duration: 90 minutes

  • Length: 40 metres

  • Volume: 3,265 cubic metres

  • Propulsion: One Antoinette engine of 40 HP

  • Maximum speed: 52 km/h

Forlanini F.1 "Leonardo da Vinci


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