Cierva, Juan de la

Cierva, Juan de la
b. 21 September 1895 Murcia, Spain
d. 9 December 1936 Croydon, England
Spanish engineer who played a major part in developing the autogiro in the 1920s and 1930s.
At the age of 17, Cierva and some of his friends built a successful two-seater biplane, the BCD-1 (C for Cierva). By 1919 he had designed a large three-engined biplane bomber, the C 3, which unfortunately crashed when its wing stalled (list its lift) during a slow-speed turn. Cierva turned all his energies to designing a flying machine which could not stall: his answer was the autogiro. Although an autogiro looks like a helicopter, its rotor blades are not driven by an engine, but free-wheel like a windmill. Forward speed is provided by a conventional engine and propeller, and even if this engine fails, the autogiro's rotors continue to free-wheel and it descends safely. Cierva patented his autogiro design in 1920, but it took him three years to put theory into practice. By 1925, after further improvements, he had produced a practical rotary-winged flying machine.
He moved to England and in 1926 established the Cierva Autogiro Company Ltd. The Air Ministry showed great interest and a year later the British company Avro was commissioned to manufacture the C 6A Autogiro under licence. Probably the most significant of Cierva's autogiros was the C 30A, or Avro Rota, which served in the Royal Air Force from 1935 until 1945. Several other manufacturers in France, Germany, Japan and the USA built Cierva autogiros under licence, but only in small numbers and they never really rivalled fixed-wing aircraft. The death of Cierva in an airliner crash in 1936, together with the emergence of successful helicopters, all but extinguished interest in the autogiro.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Daniel Guggenheim Medal. Royal Aeronautical Society Silver Medal, Gold Medal (posthumously) 1937.
1931, Wings of To-morrow: The Story of the Autogiro, New York (an early account of his work).
He read a paper on his latest achievements at the Royal Aeronautical Society on 15 March 1935.
Further Reading
P.W.Brooks, 1988, Cierva Autogiros: The Development of Rotary Wing Flight, Washington, DC (contains a full account of Cierva's work).
Jose Warleta. 1977, Autogiro: Juan de la Cierva y su obra, Madrid (a detailed account of his work in Spain).
Oliver Stewart, 1966, Aviation: The Creative Ideas, London (contains a chapter on Cierva).

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

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