Back Curtiss-Bleecker


At the time when the Autogiro Company of America had just come into being and autogyros seemed destined to provide a temporary solution to the problem of vertical landing, an American engineer, M. B. Bleecker, was fascinated by the idea of a rotor driven by airscrews on the blades, as in the Hellesen-Kahn helicopter and the Isacco helicogyro. Bleecker's design differed from the others in that his airscrews did not have individual engines but were connected by gearing to a single central Pratt and Whitney 420hp radial power unit.

As constructed by the Curtiss Wright Corporation, this intricate aircraft looked rather like a merry-go-round of four small monoplanes. Each of the wing-shaped blades had auxiliary control surfaces which, when operated collectively, were to make the aircraft rise or descend, and when operated differentially, to ensure stability. The landing gear consisted of three fixed wheels.

This helicopter successfully made a few "hops" inside the hangar where it was built, but it was abandoned because of its lack of stability and the failure of attempts to eliminate vibration.

P.Lambermont "Helicopters and Autogyros of the World", 1958

In America, Virginian M. B. Bleeker, funded by Curtiss Aircraft, built an ungainly helicopter in 1926. Its four winglike rotor blades each sported a propeller turned by a complex series of chains and gears. Trailing strut-mounted control surfaces affixed to the blades provided control. Like de Bothezat's machine, the unsuccessful Curtiss-Bleeker was a technological dead end.

J.P.Spencer "Whirlybirds: A History of the U.S. Helicopter Pioneers", 1998

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Technical data for Curtiss-Bleecker

Number of seats: 2, engine: 1 x Pratt and Whitney rated 420hp, rotor diameter: 14.42m, gross weight: 1500kg

Allan L. Bleecker, e-mail, 30.11.2009reply

I am the son of Maitland Bleecker and have a wealth of photos and written info documenting the development of this helicopter which substantiates that it flew and exhibited stability. I'd be glad for further contact to share some of what I have.

Mark K. Bleecker, e-mail, 27.06.2008reply

I have seen rare newsreel footage of this aircraft. It shows the craft flying in a controlled manner outdoors. Most records of my great uncle's invention were distroyed in a fire. I believe this article to be technically uninformed.

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