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school graduate who raised her five chil- dren instead of working outside the home. It was Igor Sikorsky’s mother who first introduced him to aviation and the helicopter when she told him about Leonardo da Vinci’s plans for a vertical flying machine (Dealer, 1969). At an early age Igor Sikorsky showed great interest in mechanics and science. Encouraged by his parents, Sikorsky used a back room in their house as a workshop where he built his own toys, experiment- ed with electric motors and even made batteries out of glass jars. In 1901, at the age of 12, Igor Sikorsky built a rubber band powered helicopter capable of ris- ing several feet before the rubber bands unwound and it settled back to the ground (Sikorsky, 2007). By 1903, Sikorsky was a fourteen year old budding engineer. However, he put his engi- neering endeavors on hold to enter the Imperial Naval Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia.

After three years,

Sikorsky left the Naval Academy and returned to Kiev where he enrolled in the Kiev Polytechnic Institute and resumed his engineering pursuits. While on vacation with his father in the Bavarian Alps in 1908, nineteen year old Igor Sikorsky became fascinated with German newspaper stories about the Wright brothers and saw his first pic- tures of the airplanes the Wrights had designed. It was this experience that set Igor Sikorsky on a lifelong pursuit of aeronautical engineering. After returning to Kiev, Igor

Sikorsky began to collect any informa- tion he could find about aeronautics and started designing his first aircraft, which was to be a helicopter. In 1909, Sikorsky’s sister Olga financed a trip for him to travel to Paris, which was at the time the center of the aeronautical world. While in Paris, Sikorsky was able to see up close many different aircraft, some which flew and others which did not. Igor returned home with a greater knowledge of aircraft designs and a twenty-five horsepower Anzani engine (Sikorsky, 2007). This new engine was used as the power plant for Sikorsky’s first helicopter, the H-1. Igor first test-

Opposite: Igor Sikorsky’s second helicopter, the H-2, is shown during testing in the first part of 1910. The H-2 improved upon Sikorsky’s original H-1 design and was capable of lifting its own weight but not the added weight of a pilot. After testing the H-2, Sikorsky decided to put helicopter development on hold in favor of designing fixed wing aircraft.

Above: One of Igor Sikorsky’s greatest aeronautical achievements came during the 1910s while he was still living in Russia. Known as The Grand, this revolutionary airplane was the first to use four engines and shattered many commonly held beliefs at the time about how large an airplane could be.

Photos: Courtesy of Sikorsky Historical Archives

ed the H-1 in 1909 and quickly encoun- tered many problems including vibra- tions and a lack of power. Sikorsky later determined the H-1 was only capable of lifting about 350 pounds which was 100 pounds less than its own weight (Dealer, 1969). An improved version, the H-2, was first tested in 1910. The H-2 had a similar coaxial configuration as the H-1 but through improved performance it was able to lift its own weight. Igor Sikorsky realized his helicopter designs were not capable of lifting a pilot and put helicopter development on hold in favor of designing fixed wing aircraft. While still developing the H-2, Igor

Sikorsky had started working on his first fixed wing design. The S-1 was a fifteen horsepower biplane, with a wooden structure and bicycle wheels. Although the S-1 never got into the air it was an important stepping stone in Sikorsky’s personal development as an aeronautical engineer and pilot. The S-1 taught Igor a lot about how to control an airplane and led to the improved S-2. The S-2


featured a larger, more powerful twenty- five horsepower engine which was mounted at the front of the aircraft in a tractor configuration instead of at the rear in the pusher configuration of the S-1. The S-2, along with the S-3 and S- 4 never flew more than short hops, but each aided in Sikorsky’s design and piloting abilities. During this time Igor Sikorsky made the decision to leave school to focus on his aeronautical endeavors. It wasn’t until 1911 and the development of the S-5, which had a fifty horsepower Argus engine, that Igor was able to make his first practical flight. This fight occurred on May 11, 1911 when Sikorsky climbed the S-5 to an altitude of 300 feet, circled the field and then landed back where he had taken off. Several months later the S-5 with Sikorsky at the controls, was flying for over one hour at altitudes up to 1,500 feet (Sikorsky, 2007). Also in 1911, Igor Sikorsky received

his Federation Aeronautique Internationale pilot’s license and flew


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