Bell’s Model 47 was the first helicopter for civilian pilots
BY J. MAC MCCLELLAN
Many of the earliest attempts at building flying machines were really helicopter concepts. Instead of accelerating airflow over a wing to
create lift, it seemed more intuitive to early aeronauts to
flap, wag, wiggle, or rotate some kind of fan to lift man
off the ground. Screwing oneself into the air occupied
many an inventor long before the Wrights demonstrated
the useful capabilities of a fixed wing.
Though clawing up into the air with a horizontal
propeller made apparent sense, developing a controllable
helicopter proved to be one of the greatest challenges in
all of aerodynamics. While it is impossible to say for sure
who created the first somewhat workable helicopter, there
is no question which was first to earn the certification
necessary to be sold to the public. It was the Bell 47 that
was awarded helicopter certificate number one in 1946.