1924 Berliner Helicopter No. 5

The Berliner Helicopter is a unique aircraft representing the spirit of experimentation that pervades the history of College Park Airport. German-American inventor Emile Berliner became interested in vertical flight in 1908. Like many aviation visionaries, he saw the benefit of an aircraft that could take off and land vertically. Such a machine could operate in very small spaces. However, major development didn't occur until his son, Henry, returned from World War I in 1919. Starting in 1920, all their design tests occurred at College Park.
1924 Berliner Helicopter


Unlike today's helicopters, this machine was constructed from a Nieuport 23 fighter fuselage and triplane wings. On February 23, 1924, this helicopter achieved an altitude of 15 feet with a maneuvering radius of 150 feet, while maintaining a speed of about 40 mph. This flight, in front of U.S. Navy officials and media, was acclaimed as the first controlled helicopter flight. Though unable to perfect a safe and smooth landing, the Berliner helicopter was a step forward in the field of vertical flight.

The Berliner Helicopter is on loan from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.


  • Number Built: 1
  • Wingspan: 38 feet, 0 inches
  • Length of fuselage: 18 feet
  • Height: 7 feet approx.
  • Rotor Diameter: 13 feet
  • Empty Weight: 641 lbs.
  • Powerplant: 220-hp BR-2 Bentley rotary (used for all known tests; installed is a 150 hp AR-1)