There is a misconception that the first Soviet helicopter was invented by aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky in 1939, but this is not entirely true. The first functional model was the TsAGI 1-EA experimental apparatus of Alexei Cheremukhin, which made its first flight back in 1930. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the development was carried out in strict secrecy, no one knew about the helicopter for a long time.
The history of the legend
From childhood, Cheremukhin was interested in aviation. Then he set himself the task of building his own plane by all means. At the beginning of World War I, Cheremukhin served in an aviation detachment, and in 1915 he transferred to the Imperial Aviation School. There, the young man met the no less legendary aircraft designer Tupolev, with whom he continued to work closely.
In 1916, the young engineer received the rank of a military pilot, and until the end of the war he made more than a hundred combat missions. After the end of the war, Cheremukhin returned to the capital and from the very first days of the founding of the TsAGI Institute began to work there together with Professor N. E. Zhukovsky and his famous students. Cheremukhin made a significant contribution to the development of the Aerohydrodynamic Institute and today is its honorary student and employee.
In 1925, a department was founded at TsAGI, specializing in the development of gyroplanes and helicopters. Two years later, the department was headed by Cheremukhin. Many famous engineers of that time worked with him on the project. Work on the TsAGI 1-EA experimental apparatus was carried out for three years. During this period, a number of revolutionary developments were created: a four-blade main rotor, freewheel clutches, a complex transmission, which were subsequently used in the helicopter.
According to Novate.ru, two engines with a total capacity of 240 hp were installed at TsAGI 1-EA, and the diameter of the blades was 11 meters. The total mass of the device was 980 kilograms, and the flight speed was limited to 30 km / h, which at that time was an exorbitant figure.
Helicopter tests and flight record
In July 1930, work on TsAGI 1-EA was completed. It was time to start testing. Cheremukhin decided not to risk it and not yet transport the helicopter to the airfield. They decided to make the first test launch right in the TsAGI building: Cheremukhin was sure that the helicopter would not take off the first time and would have to be modified. A set of firefighting equipment was prepared for the test launch, and Cheremukhin himself acted as a test pilot. To the surprise of everyone present, the helicopter not only started up, but also successfully lifted several meters off the ground.
The developers decided not to hesitate and the very next day they transported TsAGI 1-EA to the Ukhtomsky airfield. The tests were successful. Cheremukhin was again at the helm. Then the helicopter climbed to a height of 30 meters, flew a couple of kilometers and made a successful landing. Until 1934, there were regular flights to TsAGI 1-EA, after which the helicopter was constantly improved. On August 1, 1932, Cheremukhin managed to lift the helicopter to a record height of 160 meters, and two weeks later an absolute record of 605 meters was set, which could not be broken for many years. For your information, at that time the officially registered flight altitude record of 18 meters belonged to the Italian Ascanio helicopter, which operated until 1936.
Unfortunately, the revolutionary development of Cheremukhin and his team was never destined to go beyond the experimental model. Not much is known about TsAGI 1-EA. Only one documentary was made about the helicopter and its creator, which contains real footage of the flight.
Continuing the topic of the article, read also about where did the great Soviet aircraft designers begin their journey.