Focke, E.H.Heinrich

b. October 1890 Bremen, Germany
d. February 1979 Bremen, Germany
German aircraft designer who was responsible for the first practical helicopter, in 1936.
Between 1911 and 1914 Heinrich Focke and Georg Wulf built a monoplane and some years later, in 1924, they founded the Focke-Wulf company. They designed and built a variety of civil and military aircraft including the F 19Ente, a tail-first design of 1927. This canard layout was thought to be safer than conventional designs but, unfortunately, it crashed, killing Wulf. Around 1930 Focke became interested in rotary-wing aircraft, and in 1931 he set up a company with Gerd Achgelis to conduct research in this field. The Focke-Wulf company took out a licence to build Cierva autogiros. Focke designed an improved autogiro, the Fw 186, which flew in 1938; it was entered for a military competition, but it was beaten by a fixed-wing aircraft, the Fieseler Storch. In May 1935 Focke resigned from Focke-Wulf to concentrate on helicopter development with the Focke-Achgelis company. His first design was the Fa 61 helicopter, which utilized the fuselage and engine of a conventional aeroplane but instead of wings had two out-riggers, each carrying a rotor. The engine drove these rotors in opposite directions to counteract the adverse torque effect (with a single rotor the fuselage tends to rotate in the opposite direction to the rotor). Following its first flight on 26 June 1936, the Fa 61 went on to break several world records. However, it attracted more public attention when it was flown inside the huge Deutschlandhalle in Berlin by the famous female test pilot Hanna Reitsch in February 1938. Focke continued to develop his helicopter projects for the Focke-Achgelis company and produced the Fa 223 Drache in 1940. This used twin contra-rotating rotors, like the Fa 61, but could carry six people. Its production was hampered by allied bombing of the factory. During the Second World War Focke- Achgelis also produced a rotor kite which could be towed behind a U-boat to provide a flying "crow's nest", as well as designs for an advanced convertiplane (part aeroplane, part helicopter). After the war, Focke worked in France, the Netherlands and Brazil, then in 1954 he became Professor of Aeroplane and Helicopter Design at the University of Stuttgart.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Wissenschaftliche, Gesellschaft für Luftfahrt Lilienthal Medal, Prandtl-Ring.
1965, "German thinking on rotary-wing development", Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, (May).
Further Reading
W.Gunston and J.Batchelor, 1977, Helicopters 1900–1960, London.
J.R.Smith, 1973, Focke-Wulf: An Aircraft Album, London (primarily a picture book). R.N.Liptrot, 1948, Rotating Wing Activities in Germany during the Period 1939–45, London.
K.von Gersdorff and K.Knobling, 1982, Hubschrauber und Tragschrauber, Munich (a more recent publication, in German).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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