The autogiro is a type of rotorcraft supported in flight by lift provided by a rotor. Unlike a helicopter, the rotor of an autogiro is driven by aerodynamic forces alone once it is in flight, and thrust is provided by an engine-powered propeller similar to that of a fixed-wing aircraft. The autogiro is a distinct type of aircraft and not a hybrid between fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
The autogiro was invented by Juan de la Cierva y Codorniu in 1919, and it made its first successful flight on January 9, 1923 at Cuatro Vientos Airfield in Madrid, Spain. The auto giro was the first vertically landing commercial aircraft.
Autogiros are also known as giroplanes, girocopters, or rotaplanes. When the term is spelled autogiro it is a trademark that can only be applied to products of the Cierva Autogiro Company or its licensees, and the name Girocopter was a trademark of the Bensen Company.
Manufactured in Getafe and Great Britain, the autogiro was used in the 1930s as a precursor to the helicopter and, evolved as the giroplane, is still used today as a sporting light aircraft.
The Cierva Autogiro Company was taken over by Saunders Roe in 1951, which in its turn became part of Westland Helicopters Ltd. in 1961; Westland is now part of AgustaWestland.
Joe Callus donated his home-built AutoGiro rotor craft to the Malta Aviation Museum Foundation during April 2007. This AutoGiro is in a very good condition and is powered by a modified VW Beetle engine.