13 Oct 2020

8-13 October 1930: helicopter records achieved by Nelli and d’Ascanio

Between 8 and 13 October 1930, Italian pilot Marinello Nelli broke three helicopter world records at Ciampino Airport in Rome: duration record (8min 45sec), distance in a straight line (1078m) and altitude (18m).

Pilot Marinello Nelli

Designed by Corradino d’Ascanio

These performances were achieved with a helicopter created by the brilliant mechanical engineer Corradino d’Ascanio (1891–1981). Passionate about aeronautics, d’Ascanio had been designing different aircraft and filing patents for various inventions for many years. In 1925 he partnered with Baron Pietro Trojani to produce helicopter prototypes.

D’AT3, the machine flown by Nelli on his record flights, was the third built by d’Ascanio. It had two double-bladed, counter-rotating rotors driven by a FIAT A50 engine. Despite its proven performances, the Italian Ministry of Aeronautics, which had commissioned the project, decided to cease its support. The subsequent lack of funding contributed to a lack of progress in the further development and potential mass production of the aircraft.

Engineer Corradino d'Ascanio

Early helicopter records

Breakthroughs in rotorcraft flying were made after World War I, notably thanks to the efforts of Etienne Oehmichen, the Marquis de Pescara and Spain’s Juan de la Cierva. The first rotorcraft record ratified by FAI was set on 14 April 1924 by Etienne Oehmichen from France. On that day he flew for a distance of 360m.

Helicopter performances progressed significantly in the 30s. In 1937, the German rotorcraft Focke-Achgelis flew 80,604km at an altitude of 2439m. All these successes allowed the helicopter to attain the status of a means of transport and to be produced in series from 1942.

Top and bottom pictures:  D’AT3 flown by Nelli on his record flights