The Cierva C.4 was an experimental autogyro built by Juan de la Cierva in Spain in 1922 which early the following year became the first autogyro to fly successfully. The failures of De la Cierva's previous designs, the C.2 and C.3, had led him to understand that he needed to overcome the problem of dissymmetry of lift in order to get an autogyro to fly without rolling over. He noted that the problems that he was experiencing with his full-size aircraft were not found in the models that he had successfully flown, and considered the difference between the full-size and small-scale rotors. De la Cierva noted that the rotors used on his model were made of bamboo, and were thus far more flexible than the ones on his full-size aircraft. While attending an opera he realized that the flexibility reduced the moments acting on the hub and eliminated instability. Trained as a civil engineer, Cierva was aware that an otherwise cantilever structure hinged to its attachment point also generated no moment, and he designed a rotor the blades of which were mounted to the hub through hinges to permit their vertical oscillation.
The C.4 used a fuselage taken from a Sommer monoplane (possibly recycled from the C.3) fitted with a four-blade rotor. It was completed around April or May 1922, and was tested from June onwards by Jose Maria Espinosa Arias at Getafe. Success was not immediate and de la Cierva undertook a long series of modifications and refinements to the design. Finally, in January the following year, the aircraft flew at Getafe, under the control of Alejandro Gomez Spencer, making a flight of some 180 metres (600 ft). Sources differ as to whether this event took place on 9 January or 17 January.
On 20 January, the engine failed in flight, and the C.4's nose pitched sharply upwards. De la Cierva's original interest in autogyros - that of air safety - was dramatically vindicated when the machine autorotated to the ground completely undamaged. Two days later, De la Cierva demonstrated the aircraft to military and aero club observers, including General Francisco Echagüe Santoyo, director of the army's air service, and Don Ricardo Ikuiz Ferry, president of the Royal Aero Club Commission. This led to a military demonstration at Cuatro Vientos on 31 January, where the C.4 made a circular flight of 4 km (2½ miles) in 3½ minutes, at an altitude of over 25 m (80 ft).
In July, De la Cierva built the C.5, an almost identical machine but for its three-bladed main rotor.