This is the first in a series of articles on the history of the helicopter. Like the helicopter, stories about aviation pioneers can fly in all directions, and always provide an interesting journey. Future columns will be chronological, beginning with the Pioneer Aviation Exhibition Era (1908-1917), illuminating inventions of Jacob Ellehamer and Igor Sikorsky. Following WWI, Emile Berliner and Juan de la Cierva were among those rare individuals who advanced the science of vertical flight.
Although not a true helicopter, de la Cierva’s Auto-Giro of the late 1920s and 1930s was a fascinating aircraft, designed, flown and maintained by fascinating people. By the Golden Era of Aviation (1930s to WWII), famous names in the manufacture of helicopters emerged, including Piasecki, Boeing, Bell, Hiller, Douglas and the return of Sikorsky.
Giacinta Bradley Koontz (“Gia”) is an aviation historian who has contributed to more than a dozen books and authored “The Harriet Quimby Scrapbook, the Life of America’s First Birdwoman [1875-1912].” Her articles have appeared in several international magazines, including the cover story for the January 2010 issue of Air & Space magazine. Gia holds a degree in Anthropology and U.S. History and has experience as an archaeologist.
“I’m neither a pilot nor am I a mechanic, but I love digging up the stories of the men and women who design, build, fix and fly aircraft. I call myself an aviation anthropologist, as I am less about the nuts and bolts and statistics than I am about human interest,” she says.
For more information on Gia’s aviation-related projects, visit her Web sites: