Fact Check: Paul E. Williams, A Black Man Invented the First Helicopter

Fact Check: Paul E. Williams, A Black Man Invented the First Helicopter


Lockheed Model 186 (XH-51) of the Lockheed Corporation

There have been a number of inventions by Black Americans that have helped further the world. Is Paul E. Williams one of these Black inventors? Although there seems to be no official records of Williams inventing the helicopter, in Black history circles, he is often credited with being the actual inventor behind the practical helicopter.

According to Black Culture News, Williams invented the components of the “first useful helicopter” and he patented the “first useful helicopter” the Lockheed Model 186 (XH-51) on Nov. 26, 1962.

Born on July 2, 1939, in Birmingham, Alabama, his inventions reportedly advanced the performance of the helicopter.

Williams was involved in the development of the “first useful helicopter” in particular the Lockheed Model 186 (XH-51), although the helicopter was not produced until 1962. “He is acknowledged for incorporating various novel features into the helicopter that have affected the entire operation of the helicopter in a brilliant way,” according to the Facebook page Africa’s Wakanda. Africa’s Wakanda does not explain where this information is from.

The Lockheed XH-51 (Model 186) was an American single-engine experimental helicopter designed by Lockheed Aircraft, and its development started in 1959. Williams does not seem to be mentioned in the Lockheed Corporation’s description of the craft’s history.

Paul E. Williams is also not on record as the first inventor of the practical helicopter. Igor Sikorsky is credited by the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division of the United Aircraft Corporation as building the first helicopter to incorporate a single main rotor and tail rotor design. On September 14, 1939, the VS-300, the world’s first practical helicopter, took flight at Stratford, Connecticut. 

Other reports say the first piloted helicopter is recognized to have been invented by Paul Cornu in 1907. The Cornu helicopter is reported to have made short hops, but his helicopter was not capable of sustained flight.

Paul E. Williams also seems to be often confused with Paul R. Williams (February 18, 1894-January 23, 1980), the Black architect credited with designing most of Los Angeles’ most significant buildings. He also built homes for celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney, Barbara Stanwyck, and Charles Correll.

Lockheed Model 186 (XH-51) of the Lockheed Corporation