Since the beginning of time, humans have been fascinated by the concept of flight. After all, the ability to quickly get from one place to another is the ultimate convenience, and the beauty of an aerial view of their favorite city is something that everyone should experience at least once in life. Now that helicopters have advanced to the point that tourists can climb on board and take a helicopter tour, we thought it would be fun to look back at how the ability to fly vertically has changed from what seemed like an impossible concept to the incredible aircrafts that we have today.
Genius Found In a Child’s Toy
Although helicopters are a modern invention, their concept can be traced far back to some of our earliest ancestors. Historians have found evidence of a toy that children in China used that dates back to 400 B.C. This toy used bamboo sticks that would fly through the air after the children set them into a spin in a way that is similar to modern propellers. The popularity of this toy still exists today, although modern children use a model that is made from plastic and rubber bands.
Da Vinci’s Conception of the Future
Leonardo da Vinci is known for his inventions, and he holds the credit for getting one of the earliest concepts of vertical flight on to paper. His drawing depicts an aircraft with a screw-like structure on top that was to be made from starched linen and wood. In his notes, he describes the plan for the structure to be turned by four men, and he believed that the shape of the sails combined with the stiffness of the starched linen would be enough to get it to lift vertically from the ground. While his invention that is often referred to as the air screw was never tested, scientists believe that it would have been too heavy to lift off. However, similarities between da Vinci’s concept and the modern propellor are evident in their designs.
Brilliant Minds in a Race Toward Flight
There are several people credited with the creation of rudimentary versions of helicopters who deserve to be mentioned. Sir George Cayley developed the first steam powered helicopter, but it was too bulky and heavy to be practical for actual use. Paul Cornu designed an early model of a helicopter that actually made it off the ground in 1907, but it was tethered so it did not get credit for being the first free flight. In 1939, we finally see a helicopter that works more like the ones that our customers ride in during our NYC helicopter tours. This one was designed by Igor Sikorsky, and it spawned a new generation of helicopters that continue to advance in their technology today.
It’s fascinating to think that helicopters have evolved from simple toys and drawings to the complex aircrafts that we have today. As you learn more about the history of helicopters, keep in mind that our tour guides love to share their knowledge, so please feel free to bring your questions to your helicopter tour of New York City!