Juan de la Cierva


Juan de la Cierva was a man who, since he was a child, showed great curiosity and intelligence about airplanes . With only 16 years of age, he managed to build and put into the air a type of biplane plane which he baptized with the name of “El Cangrejo” , an aircraft that undoubtedly had a very important role in the history of aviation .


Personal information

  • When was he born: 09/21/1895
  • Where he was born: Murcia, Spain
  • When he died: 12/09/1936
  • Where he died: Croydon, England

Who was Juan de la Cierva?

Juan de la Cierva was a recognized and very important engineer and inventor who is closely related to the invention of the autogyro , which would later lay the foundations for the construction of the helicopter as it is known today.

  • What did Juan de la Cierva do
  • Biography of Juan de la Cierva
  • Death
  • Inventions
  • Importance
  • Acknowledgments
  • Presence in popular culture
  • Curiosities about Juan de la Cierva

What did Juan de la Cierva do

Juan de la Cierva was a man who managed to build and to fly one aircraft type biplane which was led by a pilot and also carried a passenger on board and also managed to establish the next two companions recognized nautical center of Spain .

Biography of Juan de la Cierva

Juan de la Cierva was born on September 21 of the year 1895 in Murcia . His father was Juan de la Cierva Peñafiel , a renowned conservative businessman and politician who had also managed to be a minister in several governments of Don Alfonso XIII . From a very young age, he showed great interest in everything related to aeronautics, a science that was just beginning to be born. His grandfather, Ricardo Codorníu , had explained everything related to those ships since he was an engineer and had taken him to observe different air exhibitions.

In 1904 he moved to Madrid due to his father’s work and in 1919 he managed to graduate from the General and Technical Institute of Murcia as a canal, port and road engineer . He was also a deputy for Parliament on two different occasions but his true vocation was aeronautics and for that reason he dedicated himself to building different types of models which were powered by an engine and later he dedicated himself to creating gliders that he himself piloted.

He founded the BCD society, a society that was a pioneer in the Spanish aeronautical field. In 1912 he managed to fly his first biplane plane which had a 50 hp engine, the BCD-1. In 1925 he founded his own company as The Cierva Autogiro Company , in which he served as technical director. In 1926 he managed to fly the first two-seater autogyro and in that year he began a series of contracts with Otto Reder, a German engineer. At the same time, several countries began to show interest in his invention, the Italian Military Aeronautics , the North American Navy , theSoviet Union and even the famous Mitsubishi company wanted to do business with him. Then in 1929 , the autogyro was exhibited in Seville and Juan de la Cierva made a trip to the United States where he began to develop a practical manual for the design and structural and aerodynamic calculation of the autogyro.


In 1936 he had moved to Great Britain on a commission by the British Air Ministry with the aim of being able to carry out different tests of a new model of autogyro. While in the place, the Spanish war began and in that same year, on December 9, he died in an accident at Croydon airport when he collided with a cable shortly before taking off. His remains were taken to Madrid.


His most important invention was the Cangrejo biplane plane, which was an autogyro that had its wings fixed to an upper rotor which rotated through the action of the wind and which had a starting energy and propulsion that was obtained through conventional airplane propeller . In addition, the rotor was not connected to the engine but rotated autonomously driven by air to achieve good lift . This type of articulated rotor invention was used later in the development of the helicopter .

In 1916 he also carried out different types of projects and built various gliders and airplanes that had the fixed wing. He invented a trimotor experimentally , however it crashed and was completely destroyed. This accident made him understand the need to replace the fixed-wing aircraft with a device that could provide sufficient lift and that was how he thought of a rotating supporter which was the foundation of the autogyro .


Juan de la Cierva is considered the most important and celebrated figure of all aviation in Spain that existed in the 20th century and in fact, is considered one of the most recognized worldwide thanks to his invention which had a positive impact within the history of world aeronautics. The creation of its autogyro caused a change in the universal history of the nautical euro of great importance since it was also the forerunner of the helicopter aircraft that is currently widely used for different purposes.


Some of his main recognitions are mentioned below:

  • Lahn Prize by the Aeroclub de France in 1928.
  • After his death he was given a posthumous tribute and the title of Count of the Cierva was granted.
  • In his honor, the Juan de la Cierva National Research Award was created, which is awarded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities of Spain.
  • Honorary Member of the Spanish Association of Aeronautical Engineers.
  • Honorary member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
  • Aeronautical Engineer honoris causa.
  • Knight of the Order of Leopold of Belgium.
  • Cross of Alfonso XII
  • Silver Medal awarded by the Royal Aeronautical Society.
  • Gold medal “Guggenheim” in the United States.
  • Gold Medal by the International Aeronautical Federation.

Presence in popular culture

Currently, an award is awarded in his honor by the Ministry of Education and Science in Spain , this award is given to recognize the scientific merits of Spanish researchers. In 2004 that same Ministry was in charge of starting a program in which they hired several researchers and which they called the Juan de la Cierva Program.

His memory is kept alive add the cities in which he played an important role. In Murcia you can find a monument made in his honor, in the city of Getafe , there is a metro station and a neighborhood that bears his name. In Morocco there is a Spanish Institute of professional training that was also named Juan de la Cierva as a recognition.

Curiosities about Juan de la Cierva

Some important curiosities about Juan de la Cierva are:

  • Together with two friends and as a teenager he managed to found one of the first companies that stood out in the Spanish aeronautical field .
  • The first autogyro flight in world history took place on January 9, 1923.
  • He dubbed his invention the Crab .
  • His second flight attempt was a failure as his plane crashed quickly.
  • In 1928 , he himself was the one who was commissioned to fly his aircraft and it did so over the English Channel .
  • He created a total of forty prototypes of his plane.

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