|I was looking at some old photographs and noticed the “commuter aircraft” I used to fly and thought it might be interesting to talk about one of the turboprops used to carry passengers from the smaller airports to the major hubs so stay tuned for more….|
|Have you ever noticed a Sycamore or Maple seed fall to the ground? It whirls around and around until finally lightly touching down. Lift is created by the upward flow of air over the slightly tilted airfoils as the seed rotates and falls to the ground. This phenomenon is called autorotation.
What does this have to do with Autogryros you might ask?
The principal of autorotation had been known for many years and is the main principle that autogyros work upon, but it wasn’t until January 17, 1923 when Spanish engineer Juan de la Cierva merged the technology with a conventional airplane to create the first flyable rotary wing aircraft of any type. He called his invention the “Autogiro”. The flight of the autogiro didn’t come easy though. He built three prototypes before his successful flight in the Cierva C-4. The autogiro looks like a cross between a helicopter and an airplane with 4 horizontal blades (rotors) on top and a propeller on the front but unlike a helicopter the blades are not connected to an engine. They provide lift solely by the front propeller pulling the aircraft through the air thereby providing the crucial upward airflow over the rotors just like the sycamore seed.
|Once in flight the rotors added stability to the aircraft and safety at lower airspeeds while also allowing operations in confined areas. The autogiro could also glide to safety in the advent of an engine failure.
De la Cierva’s autogiro soon came to the attention of Pennsylvanian Harold Pitcairn who had been involved in aviation since 1914. He had started his own aviation business and was producing a successful rugged biplane to serve airmail routes called the “Mailwing”. While in England Pitcairn flew the Cierva C-8 autogiro and brought it to America. He was so impressed with the autogyro that he began designing his own often improving on de la Cierva’s technology. In 1929, the Pitcairn-Cierva Autogyro Company was formed to license the manufacture of autogyros in the United States.
From that time on Pitcairn, who was convinced that the future of aviation was with rotary wing aircraft, devoted all his talents and energy to the autogyro.
|Pitcairn made 14 models:
1930……..PCA-1 …….. 1
There are very few Pitcairn Autogyros flying today so when I saw this PA-18 flying at Sun N’ Fun I had to take a picture. I had never seen one “in person” before. There isn’t much information about Pitcairn autogyros but here is what I was able to find out about the PA-18:
It was designed to be flown by the average pilot and so it is a mid sized aircraft accommodating the 1 pilot and a passenger. The aircraft was powered by a Kinner B-5 of 160 HP for a top speed of 95 mph. The autogyro wasn’t cheap, it cost $6500, which was a lot in 1932. (The average cost of new house was $6,510.00 and the average wages per year were $1,650.00) There were only 19 built and of those many were bought by the U.S. government and shipped over seas to the United Kingdom in 1940 but sadly none made it because the ship transporting them was sunk by a submarine (so this one really is rare)!
Specifications: Pitcairn Autogyro PA18
• Maximum speed: 95 mph (82.6 kts)