Denny-Mumford helicopter


In 1905 Tank Superintendent Edwin Mumford and his chief assistant, J. Pollock Brown, started experiments using propellers to lift a machine into the air. They experimented with model screw propellers under water in the Experiment Tank and adapted the results to see how a machine would work in the air.

The first machine had a bamboo framework with six propellers mounted on the sides. The engine and pilot’s seat were situated in the middle of the apparatus. The propellers were driven by chains and extension shafts and the only control was from a rudder at the rear of the frame.

The first test flights were made in 1908, but failed as the engine was unreliable and heavy. A more powerful engine was purchased and a new aluminium frame built. The machine rose to the air under its own power on 7 September 1912. In 1914 a final version fitted with floats was said to have been successfully tested on the river, but was later destroyed in a gale.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 meant that further development was halted. Nevertheless Denny’s ensured that it was ahead of its time by producing what is believed to be the first helicopter to leave the ground under its own power.

Scottish Maritime Museum