The Rotary Plane of Engelbert Zaschka

Engelbert Zaschka's Rotationsflugzeug. Photo: Bundesarchiv

Engelbert Zaschka’s Rotationsflugzeug. Photo: Bundesarchiv

On June 19, 1926German engineer, designer aviation pioneer Engelbert Zaschka filed a patent on his “Hubschraubenflugzeug” (Zaschka Rotary-Wing Airplane), a predecessor of today’s helicopter. He also constructed a large human-powered aircraft and produced some interesting unorthodox designs for automobils and motorcycles.

Engelbert Zaschka grew up in a family of musucians. His father taught music and was part of the Freiburg city orchestra and his mother was a singer. However, Zaschka went in a different direction. Already at the age of 14 he filed his first patent and founded an aviation club. It is believed that around that age, Zaschka performed his first flying attempts. In Altenburg, Engelbert Zaschka studied engineering and became chief engineer in Berlin. During the 1930s and 1940s, he worked for the aircraft company Henschel.

Zaschka managed to become one of the first German helicopter pioneers. Around 1926 he  presented the Rotationsflugzeug “rotating airplane”. It was equipped with two rotors, in which a gyroscope was used to increase stability and serves as an energy accumulator for a gliding flight to make a landing. However, gliding then meant a straight descent. Further, a swivelling propeller at the rear provided propulsion and rudder control. Zaschka’s machine was probably something between an autogyro and a helicopter. The advantage of Zaschka’s invention was according to the inventor its ability to remain motionless in the air for any length of time and to descend in a vertical line, so that a landing may be accomplished on the flat roof of a large house. The patent for Engelbert Zaschka’s invention was also filed in the United States, Great Britain, France, Switzerland, and Denmark. In 1927, Zaschka managed to actually lift off with his 360 kg heavy machine from the ground and the rotor made about 100 revolutions a minute.

At the airport Berlin-Tempelhof, Zaschka performed further experiments with another model of the Zaschka Rotationsflugzeug. It was 7 meters high and even though he was only able to fly closely above the ground he was able to show that when slowing down the egine, the devide lowered gradually which proved the design successful.

Unfortunately, the project was soon discontinued due to the lack of further financial resources. Next to his Rotationsflugzeug, Engelbert Zaschka became further famous for the folding-Zaschka three-wheeler. This city car concept was aimed to be cost effective and space saving by the vehicle could be folded after use sparingly. In 1934 Engelbert Zaschka completed a large human-powered aircraft.

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