Cornu's Legacy?

Cornu’s helicopter embodied rudimentary elements designed to impart lift, propulsion, control and stability.  Unfortunately, these elements were ultimately impractical and unworkable.  When combined with a grossly underpowered engine and ineffective rotors, the machine was far from being the first viable helicopter.  Unlike the Wright brothers, Cornu inspired no followers or imitators, nor does any of his technology appear to have inspired later developments.  Nonetheless, the Cornu helicopter represented a notable chapter in early efforts to create a functional helicopter and Paul Cornu deserves recognition as a significant early innovator.  Ultimately, he was one of many early inventor/tinkers that found aeronautical theory and practice had not advanced sufficiently to address the difficult challenges of rotary wing flight. 

Almost simultaneously with Cornu, Igor Sikorsky found himself in the same situation as did Louis Breguét, both of whom would later return to the helicopter after more than two decades with a great deal of success.  However, the critical milestones in rotary wing technology occurred with Juan de la Cierva’s Autogiro, first flown in Spain early in 1923.  There is simply no helicopter corollary as there is with the Wright brothers and the invention of the airplane, but if one person must be singled out for special recognition, Cierva is probably that person.  We should recognize Cornu, but also keep his claims in context.