Breguet-Richet Gyroplane No.1
The first manned helicopter to make a successful ascent, though only with ground assistance, took to the air at Douai in France on 29 September 1907. It was built by brothers Louis and Jacques Breguet in association with Professor Charles Richet. They called it Gyroplane. Authorities differ over the date of the Breguet machine's first flight at Douai, 24 August and 19 September 1907 being quoted with equal assurance; on this occasion the aircraft rose to about 0.60m. Take-off to some 1.50m was achieved during a test on 29 September, and similar heights were reached in several subsequent tests, but the Breguet-Richet aircraft was neither controllable nor steerable in a horizontal plane.
The machine consisted of a rectangular central chassis of steel tubing supporting the powerplant and the pilot; from each corner of this chassis there radiated an arm, also of steel tube construction, at the extremity of which was mounted a fabric-covered 4-blade biplane rotor, making a total of 32 small lifting surfaces driven by a 40‑hp Antoinette engine. One pair of diagonally opposed rotors rotated in a clockwise direction, the other pair moving anti-clockwise.
Despite its weight, with pilot, of 577 kg (1273 lb), the Gyroplane rose 60 cm (2 ft) in the air, supported by four poles held by ground handlers, who dared not let go because the helicopter had no form of control save for an engine throttle. The pilot, M.Volumard, was reputedly chosen at least partly because of his small stature - he weighed only 68kg. The Gyroplane was eventually damaged after crashing into a beetroot field, and Louis Breguet turned to fixed wing craft, returning to helicopters only some 30 years later.
Engine: Antoinette, 45 hp / 29kW
Rotor diameter: 8.0m
Take-off weight: 578kg
Empty weight: 340kg