By: Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
It is amazing to me that helicopters can fly. I am fascinated with helicopters. It is one thing to fly forward like the airplane — and that’s amazing enough — but for a machine to go forward and backward and up and down and sideways and to hover in the air is another. In Pigeon Forge several years ago I opted to take a ride in a helicopter that was being used to give rides to tourists. The pilot was flying folks over Dollywood and around the area. That was the first and only time that I rode one of those machines. But I remember it vividly.
I always think of Igor Sikorsky when I think of helicopters. While he wasn’t the only one to pioneer in the development of that type of craft, perhaps he has the most name recognition when it came to it. He began work on it as early as 1910. The helicopter was developed by several people over time. The first operational helicopter came along in 1936. But 1942 was when Sikorsky’s helicopter reached full-scale production. The most common design has a rotor on top of the machine while a small rotor in the back keeps the helicopter from turning.
Of course, the machines have been adapted to industrial applications. The sometimes lift very heavy objects atop high buildings. They’re used sometimes for police observance and for television and radio reporting.
Military applications are many. Many lives have been saved due to the use of those amazing machines. Getting the wounded to the closest field hospital is often the key to a soldier’s survival.
The word helicopter was coined by a French writer who came up with the words “hello” for spiral and “pter” for wings. As I mentioned earlier in this column, helicopters fascinate me. From what I have heard, they’re not easy to pilot. I’ve been told that there are several key things to attend to fly the machines. Anyway, helicopters have many uses and it is good that over the years folks have continued to develop those amazing machines. Many folks have flying miniature helicopters as a hobby. It sounds to me like It would be a good hobby. Perhaps I’ll give it a try sometime.
Oops! The fourth paragraph of my column last week contained an error. The sentence, “Major Grayson was a native of Carter County” should have read “Col. Miller was a native of Carter County.” I regret the error.