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Focke-Wulf Fw 61

Fw 61
First prototype Fw 61
Role Helicopter
Manufacturer Focke-Achgelis
First flight 26 June 1936
Introduction 1936
Primary user Nazi Germany
Number built 2[1]

The Focke-Wulf Fw 61 is often considered the first practical, functional helicopter, first flown in 1936.[1] It was also known as the Fa 61, as Focke began a new company—Focke-Achgelis—after development had begun.


  • Development 1
  • Operational history 2
  • Specifications (Fw 61) 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
    • Notes 5.1
    • Bibliography 5.2
  • External links 6


Fw 61 on a Deutsche Bundespost postage stamp, 1979

Professor Henrich Focke, through his development of the Fw 186, and through his work on the C.19 and licence built C.30 autogyros, came to the conclusion that the limitations of autogyros could only be eliminated by an aircraft capable of vertical flight, the helicopter. He and engineer Gerd Achgelis started the design for this helicopter in 1932. A free-flying model, built in 1934 and propelled by a small two-stroke engine, brought the promise of success. Today, the model can be seen in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

On 9 February 1935, Focke received an order for the building of a prototype, which was designated the Fw 61; Focke referred to it as the F 61. Roluf Lucht of the technical office of the RLM extended the order for a second aircraft on 19 December 1935. The airframe was based on that of a well-tried training aircraft, the Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Stieglitz.

Using rotor technology licensed from the Cierva Autogiro Company, a single, radial engine drove twin rotors, set on tubular steel outriggers to the left and right of the fuselage. Each main rotor consisted of three articulated and tapered blades driven by the engine though gears and shafts. Longitudinal and directional control was achieved using cyclic pitch and asymmetric rotor lift provided lateral control.[2] The counter-rotation of the two rotors solved the problem of torque-reaction as also shown by Louis Bréguet. The small horizontal-axis propeller directly driven by the engine was purely to provide the necessary airflow to cool the engine during low speed or hovering flight and provided negligible forward thrust.[3]

Only two aircraft were produced.[1] The first prototype, the V 1 D-EBVU, had its first free flight on 26 June 1936 with Ewald Rohlfs at the controls.[3] By early 1937, the second prototype, V 2 D-EKRA, was completed and flown for its first flight. On 10 May 1937, it accomplished its first autorotation landing with the engine turned off.

Operational history

A replica of Fw 61, ILA 2006 at the Hubschraubermuseum in Bückeburg

In February 1938, the Fw 61 was demonstrated by Hanna Reitsch indoors at the Deutschlandhalle sports stadium in Berlin, Germany.[4] It subsequently set several records for altitude, speed and flight duration culminating, in June 1938, with an altitude record of 3,427 m (11,243 ft), breaking the unofficial 605 meter altitude record of the TsAGI 1-EA from the Soviet Union set in August 1932, and a straight line flight record of 230 km (143 mi).

Neither of these machines appear to have survived World War II, although a replica is on display at the Hubschraubermuseum in Bückeburg, Germany.

Specifications (Fw 61)

Orthographic projection of the Fw 61 V2

Data from Aircraft of the Third Reich[5]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 7.3 m (23 ft 11 in) fuselage only
  • Height: 2.65 m (8 ft 8 in)
  • Empty weight: 800 kg (1,764 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 950 kg (2,094 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Bramo Sh.14A 7-cyl. air-cooled radial piston engine, 119 kW (160 hp)
  • Main rotor diameter: 2× 7 m (23 ft 0 in)
  • Main rotor area: 76.97 m2 (828.5 sq ft)


  • Maximum speed: 112 km/h (70 mph; 60 kn) at sea level
  • Cruising speed: 90 km/h (56 mph; 49 kn)
  • Range: 230 km (143 mi; 124 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 3,427 m (11,243 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 3.50 m/s (689 ft/min)

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era



  1. ^ a b c Goebel, Greg. "European Helicopter Pioneers." Retrieved: 10 October 2015.
  2. ^ J.R.Smith, Antony L. Kay (1972). "Focke-Wulf Fw 61". German Aircraft of the Second World War. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b J.R.Smith, Antony L. Kay (21 April 1938). "Helicopter Progress".  
  4. ^ Ruffin 2005, p. 19.
  5. ^ Green 2010, pp. 356–357.


  • Coates, Steve and Jean-Christophe Carbonel. Helicopters of the Third Reich. Crowborough, UK: Classic Publications Ltd., 2002. ISBN 1-903223-24-5.
  • Green, William. Aircraft of the Third Reich, Vol.1. London: Aerospace Publishing Limited, (First ed.) 2010. ISBN 978-1-900732-06-2.
  • Nowarra, Heinz J. German Helicopters, 1928-1945. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 1990. ISBN 0-88740-289-5.
  • Ruffin, Steven A. Aviation's Most Wanted: The Top 10 book of Winged Wonders, Lucky Landings and Other Aerial Oddities. Washington D.C.: Potomac Books, 2005. ISBN 1-57488-674-6.
  • Smith, J. Richard. Focke-Wulf, an Aircraft Album. London: Ian Allan Ltd., 1973. ISBN 0-7110-0425-0.
  • Smith, J. Richard and Anthony Kay. German Aircraft of the Second World War. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1972 (3rd edition 1978). ISBN 0-370-00024-2.
  • Witkowski, Ryszard. Rotorcraft of the Third Reich. Redbourn, UK: Mushroom Model Publications, 2007. ISBN 978-83-89450-43-2.

External links

  • French & German Helicopter Pioneers (Fa 61)
  • Focke Wulf Fw61
  • Heinrich Focke—Fa 61
  • Virtual Aviation Museum Focke Wulf FW 61
  • Warbirds Resource Group
  • German static replica
  • Focke Wulf Fw 61 luftwaffe at
  • Vertical Rewind: Spoils of War Archive
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