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1924 Berliner Helicopter No.5

1924 Berliner Helicopter

The Berliner Helicopter is a unique aircraft representing the spirit of experimentation that pervades the history of College Park Airport. German-American inventor Emile Berliner became interested in vertical flight in 1908. Like many aviation visionaries, he saw the benefit of an aircraft that could take off and land vertically. Such a machine could operate in very small spaces. However, major development didn’t occur until his son, Henry, returned from World War I in 1919. Starting in 1920, all their design tests occurred at College Park.

Unlike today’s helicopters, this machine was constructed from a Nieuport 23 fighter fuselage and triplane wings. On February 23, 1924, this helicopter achieved an altitude of 15 feet with a maneuvering radius of 150 feet, while maintaining a speed of about 40 mph. This flight, in front of U.S. Navy officials and media, was acclaimed as the first controlled helicopter flight. Though unable to perfect a safe and smooth landing, the Berliner helicopter was a step forward in the field of vertical flight.

The Berliner Helicopter is on loan from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Number Built:
38 feet, 0 inches 
Length of fuselage:
18 feet
7 feet approx.
Rotor Diameter:
13 ft
Empty Weight:
641 lbs.
Powerplant: 220-hp BR-2 Bentley rotary (used for all known tests; installed is a 150 hp AR-1)