World’s smallest helicopter to fly at da Vinci’s birthplace

Image from “World's smallest helicopter to fly at da Vinci's birthplace”

In this photo released on Thursday by Japanese helicopter manufacturing company Gen Corporation, the company employee Yasutoshi Yokoyama flies in the air by GEN H-4, a compact single-seater helicopter.

World’s smallest helicopter to fly at da Vinci’s birthplace

MARI YAMAGUCHI

Associated Press

May 15, 2008 at 9:55 PM EDT

TOKYO — A Japanese man who developed the world’s smallest helicopter will take flight in the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci in tribute to the Renaissance genius’s original idea.

Gennai Yanagisawa, 75, said Thursday that a demonstration flight of his one-man helicopter is planned in the city of Vinci, near Florence, Italy, on May 25.

Mr. Yanagisawa developed the GEN H-4 helicopter – with rotors, a chair, footrest and handle bar – in the late 1990s.

“The concept of my helicopter comes from Italy, and I’ve always wanted to fly it in da Vinci’s birthplace,” Mr. Yanagisawa told The Associated Press from Japan’s central city of Matsumoto, where he runs an electronics equipment company. “I’m very excited.”

Renaissance-era visionary Leonardo da Vinci designed an “aerial screw” in the 1480s – believed to be the first portrayal of a vertical-flight machine, according to Italy’s National Museum of Science and Technology.

The GEN H-4 has two rotors turning in opposite directions to maintain stability, and four engines that enables a 30-minute flight with a top speed of about 90 kilometres an hour.

Mr. Yanagisawa said Vinci Mayor Dario Parrini offered him an opportunity to fly his helicopter when the two met in the Italian city in February.

“Italian people seem to welcome my realizing of da Vinci’s idea in his birthplace,” he said. “I want to make my best flight so that I can live up to their expectations.”

Although the 74-kilogram helicopter can ascend up to 150 metres, Mr. Yanagisawa said he will fly five metres above ground during his three, 10-minute demonstrations “so the audience can see me and enjoy the flight.”

A Guinness World Records spokeswoman confirmed the recognition of Mr. Yanagisawa’s helicopter as the world’s smallest model in terms of weight and rotor length of 3.9 metres.

Yanagisawa has sold five GEN H-4s in Japan and two in the U.S. for recreational use. The helicopters sell for about $57,140 (U.S.).

“I hope someday this can be used just like a scooter,” he said.

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