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March 16, 2009 | | Comments 0

From Seeds to an AH-64 Apache

The AH-64 Apache is an all-purpose attack helicopter that has played an enormous role in recent conflicts. From when the Apache first flew in operations back in 1989 in Panama to flying in military operations in Israel, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the Middle East; the Apache has been an invaluable edition to armed forces.

AH-64 Apache HelicopterThe AH-64 Apache was designed to be quick and agile, but also powerful and durable. The muscles behind it are two General Electric 1700 Turboshaft engines. Crowned by a main rotor that has four blades and equipped with a four blade tail rotor, the Apache can soar in almost any weather. Designers of the AH-64 built it armored so that it could protect the two passengers that it carries.

The Apache is an incredible piece of technology. Yet for all its glory, the Apache has a simple beginning: a seed.

The Chinese were the first people to develop a primate idea of the helicopter. In 400 B.C. Chinese children played with toys that could fly for a brief period of time. Those tops were very simple to build but made it possible for man to fly Apache helicopters centuries later.

String, wood, rotors, and feathers was all that was needed to make the top. The feathers attached to the rotors. The rotors were attached to a rotating shaft made from wood. A string would be connected to the rotor then wrapped around it. When pulled the string would cause the top to spin, generating lift, and thus achieving flight. There were also different models of tops that generated lift by spinning it in one’s hands, using rubber bands, and eventually ones that used springs. Yet the result was the same in each toy: vertical lift. That is what sets the helicopter apart from most other aircraft: the ability to soar straight up into the air.

An object that was used as a plaything by countless Chinese children would later on astound, inspire, and challenge scientists and scholars who dared to dream of a vehicle that could carry man straight into the clouds. Although the earliest operational helicopter would come following the Wright brothers’ plane, the inspiration was in people’s minds years before.

The Chinese top was the stimulation behind Mikhail Lomonosov, a Russian intellectual, to design and assemble a apparatus that used a coaxial rotor for lift and was powered by a spring device back in 1754.

Sir George Cayley contributed a lot to developing the basic rules and principles of flight, but if you take a closer look at his life, you will observe that as a youth he was fascinated with the Chinese top. In fact so fascinated, that he built models of his own. The Chinese top was merely revamped, improved, rethought, and enlarged and now appears as the sleek, powerful AH-64 Apache.

The origin of modern day helicopters traces back to the Chinese top, but how did the Chinese create a toy so ingenious and simple that it would spark the imagination of the rest of the world? The answer is: a seed. It is widely accepted that the seeds of Sycamore trees, which spun and whirled as they glided to the ground, was the factor that lead to the invention of the Chinese top.

Today helicopters complete various tasks: military, traffic control, rescue vehicles, and much more. The Apache allows troops to penetrate enemy lines in ways that were not possible before. However, what will one find if the genealogy of helicopters is traced back to its roots? If one could point to the essence, the core of what the first helicopter looked like, where would he point? The first helicopters can be found in a thought. A thought placed in man’s head by a little seed.

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