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  Autogiro Day

Special Family Activities
10:30 AM - 2:30 PM

Embark on a deeper exploration into helicopters, flight simulation, or even the universe!

In addition to our Imagination Playground and Invention Lab activities, Autogiro Day also features three different activities for kids, each 30 minutes long and available throughout the day for nominal fees.

No reservations necessary, purchase tickets in the Museum's Gift Shop on the day of the event.


Starlab Constellation Show
Ages 5 and up (3 and up at 10:30 AM).
Children must be accompanied by ticketed adult.

Starlab presentations:
10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:30 PM, 2:00 PM
$5/person ($4/Member)


Hands-On Helicopter Workshop
Recommended Ages 5-11
Build and Fly a Rubber-Powered Helicopter
11 AM, 12 PM, 1 PM
$5/person ($4/Member)


Flight Sim Zone
Recommended Ages 8 and up
30-Minute Intervals 11 AM - 2 PM
$3/simulator (no charge for Members)


Autogiro Day Activity Package
$10/Person ($7/Members)
Includes admission to all of these fee-based activities:

  • One person to Starlab Show
  • Helicopter Workshop
  • Flight Sim Zone

Autogiro Day!
Saturday Sept 26, 2015

Aircraft Displays
Hands-On Activities for Kids
NASA Exhibits on Rotary-Wing Aviation
Helicopter Flight Simulations
Guided Tours
And Much More!


Autogiro Day is celebrated during
Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day


Join a celebration of the earliest rotary-winged aircraft as the Museum celebrates Autogiro Day! Discover the world of autogiros, unique aircraft flown with unpowered rotors. Flown as early as 1923, autogiros were among the leading aircraft designs well into the 1930s. Amelia Earhart set an altitude record of over 18,000 feet flying a Pitcairn autogiro in 1931.

The Museum will will display examples of autogiros along with traditional helicopters on the Compass Rose throughout the day. Special activities are planned throughout the day:

Schedule of Activities
10:00 AM Museum opens to public
10:00 AM - 1:30 PM Autogiro aircraft static display
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM Imagination Playground open
10:00 AM - 2:00 PM NASA exhibits open
10:30 AM Starlab Planetarium shows begin *
10:30 AM Public Autogiro tour
11:00 AM Hands-on Helicopter Workshops begin *
11:00 AM - 2:00 PM Flight Sim Zone open **
11:00 AM Presentation: Harold Pitcairn and American Autogiro Development (by Jean-Pierre Harrison)
12:00 PM Public Autogiro tour
12:30 PM Development of the Autogiro (by Jean-Pierre Harrison)
1:00 - 4:00 PM Invention Lab Open
3D design and aircraft assembly
2:30 PM End of Starlab/Helicopter programs for kids
5:00 PM Museum closes to public
  * Additional Fee or Activity Wristband Required; See Sidebar for Details
** Additional Fee, Museum Membership or Activity Wristband Required; See Sidebar for Details
*** Weather and ATC Permitting


NASA Rotorcraft Exhibition
Join staff and volunteers from NASA Ames Research Center and the Hiller Aviation Museum in an exploration of the cutting edge of vertical flight. Four different stations bring to life the latest innovations in helicopters and autogiros with interactive displays, artifacts from real aircraft, hands-on activities and free handouts appropriate for kids and adults of all ages.


Public Helicopter/Autogiro Tours
10:30 AM, 12:00 PM

Explore the Museumís unparalleled collection of rotary winged aircraft with an experienced docent guide. See full scale reproductions of the Buhl Autogiro and Hiller XH-44 helicopter, including a demonstration of the Hillerís unique twin rotor system. Investigate the forces that act on a helicopter in flight during a static demonstration of a Hiller 360 helicopter and discover the Museumís rare Del Mar helicopters, including the only tandem-rotor DH-20 ever built.

Suitable for all ages, tours are included with Museum admission.


Harold Pitcairn and American Autogiro Development
Presentation by Jean-Pierra Harrison
11 AM

Harold F. Pitcairn, born into a wealthy family, channelled his interest in rotary-wing aircraft into the development of the Autogiro upon flying the aircraft in 1928. He licensed the North American Autogiro patent rights and undertook a major development programme coordinated with that of the parent Cierva Autogiro Company, Ltd., in England. Pitcairn's efforts contributed significantly to the development of rotary-wing aircraft and laid the foundation of the helicopter industry in North America.


Development of the Autogiro
Presentation by Jean-Pierre Harrison
12:30 PM

The Autogiro, the world's first successful rotary-wing aircraft, was developed in the early 1920s by Juan de la Cierva in Madrid. International interest in this aircraft led to the establishment of the Cierva Autogiro Company in London in 1926, followed shortly thereafter by the Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro Company near Philadelphia.

Technical progress by these two firms led to the certificated Autogiros for private and commercial operations. Simpler than the helicopter, the Autogiro proved an ideal platform for the development of rotor systems, control mechanisms, vertical takeoff capability, and operational techniques. In 1936, this technology was used in the first successful helicopters, the Breguet-Dorand Gyroplane Laboratoire and Focke Wulf FW-61.

Autogiro development continued until WW2 but was increasing supplanted by interest in helicopters, resulting in today's rotary-wing industry. Nevertheless, Autogiro development led to the record setting Fairey Gyrodyne of 1947 and the Fairey Rotodyne Autogiro airliner of 1957. Though long considered obsolete, the Autogiro has never completely disappeared and contemporary efforts are underway to apply current advances to the aircraft.


Lectures included with Museum admission.



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