Juan de la Cierva Codorniu is a worthy representative of Spanish ingenuity, being one of the greatest engineers and inventors in history. His autogyro stands out as the predecessor of the helicopter.
He was born in Murcia
on September 21, 1895. His father was Juan de la Cierva y Peñafiel, a criminal lawyer, politician and businessman, who became a minister on several occasions and mayor of Murcia. His mother was Maria Codorniu Bosch, daughter of the prominent forestry engineer Ricardo Codorniu.
He was known by the family nickname "Juanito" and was always passionate about the world of aviation. In fact, he liked to read any book about inventions. During his childhood, he developed his creativity and skills in creating various models of airplanes that could fly, with materials as simple as paper, light rods and twisted rubber bands.
Inventions and achievements of Juan de la Cierva
Juan de la Cierva created the B.C.D company, whose named corresponded to the initials of the surnames of his classmate Jose Barcala and friend Pablo Diaz. They were pioneers in aeronautical development in Spain.
In 1912, at just 16 years of age, Juan de la Cierva built and flew a biplane aircraft with the designation BCD-1, known as "Crab". Its first pilot was the Frenchman Mauvais. Later, Juan de la Cierva built his first autogyro in Madrid in 1920, named the Cierva C.1. It had the fuselage, wheels and vertical stabilizer of a monoplane, on which two counter-rotating four-bladed rotors crowned by a vertical surface were mounted, to provide lateral control.
It also had a power plant, a 60 HP Le Rhône engine. However, it was unable to fly because the lower rotor turned too slow.
Later, he made two new attempts with C.2 and C.3, but his flight was unsuccessful despite some jumps from one to two meters high.
Not until the creation of the C.4 model, in 1922, did he manage to solve the problem of rotor lift, including his revolutionary idea of articulating the rotor blades at their root.
The first tests were carried out in the wind tunnel of the closed circuit of the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome, recognized as the best in Europe. Ultimately, this device was successfully approved in January 1923 at the Getafe aerodrome, piloted by Lieutenant Alejandro Gomez.
A month later, the C.4, with its 110 HP Le Rhône 9Ja engine, managed to travel 4 kilometres in four minutes on the closed circuit of Cuatro Vientos at a height of 30 meters. In July 1923, the C.5 was manufactured with the same engine and flew in Getafe, relying on a subsidy from the Spanish government.
Conquering the sky
In 1926, the Cierva Autogiro Company was created in the United Kingdom, with the financial support of the Scotsman James George Weir, industrialist and aviator, for the development of the autogyro. It manufactured various models for that nation.
Already in 1928, Juan de la Cierva was very famous for his autogyros, which he personally piloted before a large public to exhibit them. He had the opportunity to fly to the United States and land on the White House lawn, where he was received by President Herbert C. Hoover.
This great inventor died on December 9, 1936, at just 42 years of age, in a tragic accident involving the KLM Douglas DC-2 plane at Croydon Airport; the plane crashed during takeoff. It was a regular flight from London to Amsterdam.