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 Birth of an industry

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PostSubject: Birth of an industry   Thu Oct 14, 2010 6:40 pm

Despite the success of the Gyroplane Laboratoire, the German Focke-Wulf Fw 61, first flown in 1936, would eclipse its accomplishments. The Fw 61 broke all of the helicopter world records in 1937, demonstrating a flight envelope that had only previously been achieved by the autogyro. Nazi Germany would use helicopters in small numbers during World War II for observation, transport, and medical evacuation. The Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri synchropter was used in the Mediterranean, while the Focke Achgelis Fa 223 Drache was used in Europe.[citation needed] Extensive bombing by the Allied forces prevented Germany from producing any helicopters in large quantities during the war.

In the United States, Igor Sikorsky and W. Lawrence LePage, were competing to produce the United States military's first helicopter. Prior to the war, LePage had received the patent rights to develop helicopters patterned after the Fw 61, and built the XR-1.[24] Meanwhile, Sikorsky had settled on a simpler, single rotor design, the VS-300. After experimenting with configurations to counteract the torque produced by the single main rotor, he settled on a single, smaller rotor mounted vertically on the tailboom.

Developed from the VS-300, Sikorsky's R-4 became the first mass produced helicopter with a production order for 100 aircraft. The R-4 was the only Allied helicopter to see service in World War II, primarily being used for rescue in Burma, Alaska, and other areas with harsh terrain. Total production would reach 131 helicopters before the R-4 was replaced by other Sikorsky helicopters such as the R-5 and the R-6. In all, Sikorsky would produce over 400 helicopters before the end of World War II.[25]

As LePage and Sikorsky were building their helicopters for the military, Bell Aircraft hired Arthur Young to help build a helicopter using Young's semi-rigid, teetering-blade rotor design, which used a weighted stabilizing bar. The subsequent Model 30 helicopter demonstrated the simplicity and ease of the design. The Model 30 was developed into the Bell 47, which became the first helicopter certificated for civilian use in the United States. Produced in several countries, the Bell 47 would become the most popular helicopter model for nearly 30 years.

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