Cover image for From autogiro to gyroplane : the amazing survival of an aviation technology
From autogiro to gyroplane : the amazing survival of an aviation technology
Charnov, Bruce H.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 389 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
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Material Type
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TL715 .C43 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Predating the invention of the helicopter by two decades, the Autogiro was the world's first rotary-wing aircraft. The helicopter had the advantageous ability to rise straight up, while the Autogiro/gyroplane could only taxi. Yet the gyroplane was safer and more stable; both aircraft should have had value in market. Why did the helicopter survive and prosper, while the Autogiro became a nearly forgotten historical footnote? Why didn't the Autogiro catch on, and why is it being revived today?

This is the first book to tell the fascinating 80-year history of today's gyroplane and its antecedent, the Autogiro. Charnov explains that the near-eclipse of the Autogiro was caused by a potent combination of bad luck, the impact of the Great Depression and World War II, and egregious business decisions. Only by understanding the amazing manner in which this aviation technology has persisted and evolved can one fully understand the basis for its future. In contrast to the fate of the Autogiro, the gyroplane's unfolding story is characterized by successful business models, effective decision making, and the emergence of cutting-edge technology. The survival of the gyroplane may be a paradigm for the persistence of earlier, less complex technologies, and its future relies on grasping its colorful history.

Author Notes

Bruce H. Charnov is Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Management, Entrepreneurship and General Business Department of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island, New York.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

An autogiro, with a large, nonpowered rotor above the fuselage to generate lift, characteristically uses a nose-mounted engine and propeller for forward propulsion, along with stubby wings and tail group to provide directional control. In flight, it appears to be an anachronistic aerodynamic machine. But in the 1920s and 1930s, its ability to achieve short take-offs and landings plus a resistance to dangerous stalling in mid-flight made it immensely popular. In addition to sport and utility flying, builders hoped to use autogiros for exploration. About two thirds of Charnov's book covers the 1920s and 1930s, when Juan de la Cierva, a Spaniard, came up with the idea, and designers in the US and Europe hastened to build improved machines. Three chapters cover little-known efforts by the Allies and the Axis to use autogiros during WW II. By the late 1940s, successful helicopters had passed them by, but aficionados have refused to let them die. The five final chapters represent a highly detailed summary of aspiring postwar designers and their machines in the US and overseas. In addition to an extensive bibliography, Charnov includes an informed annotated bibliography. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. R. E. Bilstein emeritus, University of Houston--Clear Lake

Table of Contents

John Lienhard
Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xxiii
Introductionp. 1
1. Juan de la Ciervap. 11
2. Cierva's Autogirop. 31
3. Cierva and Harold F. Pitcairnp. 51
4. Pitcairn and American Autogiro Developmentp. 77
5. Development of the Direct Control Autogirop. 101
6. American Advances, the C.30A Autogiro, and Cierva's Deathp. 123
7. Pitcairn after Ciervap. 143
8. Pitcairn, the Kellett Brothers, and the Coming of Warp. 165
9. The Autogiro Goes to War: The Alliesp. 187
10. The Autogiro Goes to War: The Axisp. 205
11. Igor Bensen and the Development of the Gyrocopterp. 225
12. Bensen, Tervamaki, Growth of the PRA, and the Fairey Rotodynep. 249
13. Failure to Revive the Autogiro: Various Companies Take the Riskp. 269
14. Transformation of the PRA: Ken Brock, Martin Hollmann, and the Ultralight Revolutionp. 289
15. The Emerging Gyroplane Futurep. 309
The Essential Autogiro/Autogyro/Gyrocopter/Gyroplane History Library: An Annotated Listp. 335
Bibliographyp. 343
Indexp. 371