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Juan De La Cierva

Pioneer of Rotary Flight

Born Murcia, Spain

Sept. 21,1895—Dec. 9,1936

At the age of 15, Juan De La Cierva, with two friends, constructed a glider of his own design and began, through trial and error, to learn about aircraft design. After receiving his engineering degree, he built, in 1918, the first trimotor airplane in Spain. At this time, he began developing his concept for a flying machine having a "parachute"-capability to provide for improved safety in the event of engine failure. Beginning with the helicopter concept known by experimentalists for some time, he conducted many tests of various configurations finally concluding that true helicopter flight was not technically feasible with the state of the art of that time.

His tests showed, however, that both short take-off and landing, and his initial objective of parachute capability could be achieved by combining the capabilities of a conventional aircraft and the helicopters, calling the invention an "autogyro." By 1925, his development aircraft had achieved reliability and he began its demonstration in France, England, and the United States, producing the autogyro in quantity in England and the United States. It was Cierva's development of rotor blade design and articulated rotor blades, which played a major role in the first successful helicopter in 1936.

Invested 1966 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

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Updated: March 12, 2004