I’m fascinated by early helicopters — and the people whose brains created them.
I get planes. It’s pretty easy to look at a soaring bird and extrapolate that if you made a contraption with the right kind of wing, a human could use it to glide like a hawk.
But the whirligig motion required to make rotorcraft fly isn’t as obvious. Whose brain thought, “If I attach propeller blades to a blender and hold it above my head, I’ll probably fly and also maybe not die?”
Ridiculous and terrifying murdercopters are my favorite genre of aircraft.
Longtime newsletter subscribers may remember the little buddy that sparked my interest: Lewis C. McCarty Jr’s Aerocycle.
You might also remember that the aerocycle made an appearance in Heat Death (Bulari Saga 4). I polled you all, and the result was that you wanted to see one of my characters ride a similar deathtrap. You sadists.
Well, I have a whole batch of wild rides for you today.
My husband and I have spent the last week in Paris. We’ve seen all the usual hits: the cheese shops, the Eiffel Tower, the wine bars, Notre Dame, the bakeries, and, of course, the National Air and Space Museum of France.
If you’re interested at all in early flight, I highly recommend this museum.
The French were pioneers of flight — starting with hot air balloons in the 1800s and progressing to dirigibles, then some very fanciful personal glider contraptions.
Many of the original prototypes are on display at the museum, giving you a fascinating look into how humanity took its first baby steps into the air — and into orbit and beyond.
(I like this one that’s inspired by bat wings.)
There’s a fantastic rotocraft display, as well as an entire hall dedicated to modern prototypes.
It was in the helicopter hall that I first learned about Raúl Pateras Pescara de Castelluccio, an inventor from Argentina who created this nonsense:
This experimental Pescara helicopter was built in France in 1925, This is his model 2F, which the plaque explains climbed to 2.5m, flew for more than 10 minutes, and covered 1,160m in a closed circuit.
That’s over a kilometer, slightly faster than you could walk it — but with a much bigger adrenaline rush.
I mean, look at that thing. Can you believe it flew?
I can’t — but there’s actual video! This is a slightly different model than the one in the French Air and Space Museum, but it’s wild.
As always, I find inspiration for my science fiction in my travels — and that definitely includes the visits to air and space museums. Blood River Blues (Nanshe Chronicles 2) took inspiration from an exhibit on Alaskan bush planes at the Boeing Air Museum in Seattle.
So don’t worry — I’ll try to figure out a way to include a Pescara murdercopter in a future book. 😉
(For more French murdercopter photos check out my post on Instagram.)
I’m off to eat some more cheese and continue butchering the French language beyond recognition!
(French people have been very polite and helpful about both of those pastimes so far.)
I hope you’re having a lovely week, and not strapping a mini helicopter to your back.
I’m not gonna stop you.
But please do send me video.