first person to realise that it would one day be possible to fly
by using a vertical rotating mechanism was Leonardo da Vinci, with
his famous design, probably never realised, of the helicopter's
ancestor. And almost four centuries later it was Enrico Forlanini
from Milan, after whom the city airport was also named, who
further developed that initial idea.
in 1930, the first helicopter able to fly was built,
designed entirely by the same man responsible for one of the
Italian inventions which have had greatest success in the world:
Corradino D'Ascanio, the father of the Vespa.
chief engineer at Piaggio,
a company that long before moving into the production of
scooters had been a leading name in Italian aeronautics.
In his later
years, Ing. Corradino D’Ascanio briefly consultied for
afterwards designed and constructed a helicopter for
In 1994 Agusta became part of the Finmeccanica
group, the great Italian company in the Aeronautics, space and
military electronics sector, which started a joint-venture with
the British GKN, leading to the setting-up of a new company,
AgustaWestland. Agusta subsequently took this over completely,
thus becoming the world's leading helicopter manufacturer.
Today, Agusta has a turnover of around € 2.5 billion, with
almost 9000 employees and orders worth over € 6 billion. The
long list of Agusta's successes, then, comes as no surprise. The
most impressive was on 28 January 2005, when the U.S. Navy
decided to use Agusta US101 helicopters as part of the complex
security system for the US President. But other results achieved
in recent months also confirm the supremacy of Italian
helicopters, with orders from Chevron Texaco, the Evergreen
Marine Corp. and Seacor Marine, who together have ordered 26
aircraft. Moreover, after Oman and Ireland, also the United Arab
Emirates have chosen the AB139 for their civil emergency and
A modern helicopter by AgustaWestland, used by the NYPD
about Ing. D'Ascanio...
Corradino d'Ascanio built a successful coaxial
helicopter, which flew under good control. His relatively large
machine had two, two-bladed, counter-rotating rotors. This was the
first helicopter in the world that was ever able to fly.
In the previous years, D'Ascanio had
experimented with blades
with hinges that allowed to change blade pitch. Control was achieved by using auxiliary
wings or servo-tabs on the trailing edges of the blades, a
concept that was later adopted by others, including Bleeker and
Kaman in the United States.
This machine held FAI speed and altitude records for the time, including altitude
(57 ft, 17.4 m), duration (8 minutes 45 seconds) and distance
flown (3,589 ft, 1,078 m).
Early helicopters by Piaggio A prototype
helicopter by the Piaggio company. Styled P.D.4, started flight
trials in April 1953. It was a tandem-rotor design, powered, by
an inverted-vee, eight-cylinder engine at the rear.
a four-seat helicopter initially it had to be equipped with
450hp Alpha Romeo engine but then a 215hp Franklin was adopted.
The helicopter flew in the first
half of 1952, demonstrating good handling characteristics
although being seriously underpowered. In a wrong maneuver
during a landing with lateral wind it was seriously damaged and
Piaggio P.2, 1923
Piaggio P.11, 1933
Piaggio P.23R airplane, 1936
Piaggio P.136, 1948
Piaggio PD 808, 1964
Piaggio P.180, 1986
The MP3 Machine:
The newest innovation by Piaggio: The MP3
scooter (with two independent front wheels)
Ing. Nazareno Gori (Chief designer of the River pool)
Ing. Nazareno Gori
Gori obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1960 from the
University of Pisa, Italy.D'Ascanio
was one of his professors. When Nazareno was graduating he had
D'Ascanio as a "relator" of his Thesis on a rotary
they remained friends for twenty years, until D'Ascanio's
Nazareno Gori was hired by Piaggio
as a mechanical engineer and became Assistant professor
of Mechanical Drawing at the University of Pisa.
When Nazareno started working at the Piaggio factory in Pisa, D'ascanio was retiring from Piaggio.
Piaggio, Nazareno Gori became one
of the chief engineers at the Pisa factory. At the time, among other
projects, a new scooter with two front wheels was
designed. This scooter was produced recently and is marketed as
In 1972 Nazareno
became director of Leoncini (a subsidiary of Piaggio).
Ing. Nazareno Gori left
Piaggio and started developing products in the
hydraulic field, and consulting for large pump manufacturers.
Nazareno Gori owns several
patents and is
one of the best, well known and most experienced
mechanical engineers in Italy.
Through his older brother Nazareno,
met D'Ascanio in 1968 when Giuseppe was an Engineering freshman at
the University of Pisa. D'Ascanio later asked Giuseppe, then 19
years old, to test a small katamaran, propelled by pedals.
following years Giuseppe had the opportunity of spending many hours
with D'Ascanio learning and discovering his latest ideas and
projects. D'Ascanio never lost his enthusiastic spirit and joy of
life and was very happy to share his ideas with other people and show his "magic" tricks to children.
In those years D'Ascanio, already retired from
Piaggio, was working on a new
helicopter for agricultural purposes: He was developing an affordable 2-seat
helicopter by using the latest techniques in materials, such as fiberglass
for the helicopter rotors, and by using innovative design choices.
He was consulting for Agusta and used one of the Agusta motors for
his new helicopter.
Nazareno Gori at the time was hired by
D'Ascanio as a consultant to develop parts of the new helicopter. At
the same time D'Ascanio had an agreement with Piaggio that gave him
access to their manufacturing facilities in order to produce some of
the helicopter parts. Nazareno, still working at Piaggio, was also
involved in that production process.
Giuseppe continued studying at the University of Pisa and obtained a
doctorate degree in Computer Science, then became Assistant
Professor of Theory of Computing Machines at the University. He Joined the IBM
Scientific Center in Pisa in 1973, then emigrated to Canada in 1978
and joined the IBM Canada Lab in Don Mills, Ontario.
Giuseppe and his brother Nazareno cooperated in a
major project in 1990, to automate an assembly line for
designed the mechanical devices and robots for the factory, and Giuseppe "made them
come alive" by writing the software in "C" language.
In 1999, Giuseppe and Nazareno built the first River pool in Canada.
In 2006 Giuseppe started Central Dynamics, Inc. which now
manufactures the River pool in Guntersville, AL.
After World War II, Dr. Enrico Piaggio, in Biella, commissioned the
design of a small motorcycle similar to the one designed years
earlier by Ing. Belmondo, which was used by parachutists during the war. Piaggio asked D'ascanio
to go to Biella to review the design, as D'ascanio was his chief
designer. However, this motorcycle did not meet the requirements.
That's when D'ascanio was asked by Piaggio to design a new one.
Since D'Ascanio was not bound by motorcycling tradition, he designed
a revolutionary vehicle, which Piaggio named "vespa". Enrico Piaggio
was so impressed by the design that immediately ordered the
production of 5,000 of them.
The Vespa was built on a rigid frame with the gear change
handle on the left, on the handlebar. The engine was mounted directly on to the rear wheel
(direct axle transmission). A front shield kept the rider dry and clean in
comparison to the open front end of motorcycles. The pass-through
leg area design was geared towards all user groups, including women,
whose skirts made riding a motorcycle a challenge.
Both the front and rear wheels were easily changeable from one side,
similar to the way a car wheel is changed.
The direct axle transmission eliminated the standard motorcycle
chain, a source of oil, dirt, and aesthetically unsightly. In following
models, the motor was elastically suspended to the frame and still attached directly to the wheel. One fundamental innovation was
the design of the gear box. Switching gears was quick and easy, as all
gear wheels were always "engaged" (continuously turning) and did not need to move sideways
when switching. The small wheels and low barycentre made the Vespa
very easy to handle.
Fedinando Innocenti, another Italian industrialist, started producing
a copy of the Vespa (the Lambretta) in 1947.
In the decades of its history, the Vespa scooter has
become one of the most famous brand designs worldwide, with 16 millions
of units produced, as of 2005, in 130 models.