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Above: The VS-300 made its first flight on September 14, 1939.

It only lifted off the ground to a height of eight inches but

it would become the first successful North American helicopter. The VS-300 is shown being flown by Igor Sikorsky during its first public demonstration on May 20, 1940. Photos: Courtesy of Sikorsky Historical Archives

the S-5 to four Russian records for alti- tude, speed, range and endurance. In February of 1912, the S-6A won the Great Gold Medal as the best aircraft at the Moscow Aeronautical Exhibition. This award generated significant inter- est in Sikorsky’s piloting abilities and his aircraft designs. Igor Sikorsky accepted an offer to become the chief engineer and test pilot for the newly formed aviation division of the Russian-Baltic Railcar Factory, one of Russia’s largest industrial companies. In 1913, Igor Sikorsky designed, built and flew one of his greatest aeronautical achievements. The aircraft was known as The Grand and it would become the world’s first successful four engine air- craft (Dealer, 1969). The Grand was a revolutionary design which had dual controls, an enclosed cockpit it’s four man crew (two pilots, one mechanic and one navigator) and a cabin with four seats, a sofa, washroom, table and a coat closet. Less than ten years after


the Wright brothers first flight, the Grand set a record by flying with eight passengers for over one hour and fifty minutes. The Grand generated so much interest, Czar Nicholas II requested it be flown to a military air- port so he could view the aircraft and personally meet with Igor Sikorsky (Sikorsky, 2007). The Grand would ulti- mately become the precursor to the larger airplanes that would revolution- ize air travel and make airline trans- portation what it is today. Just as Igor Sikorsky was beginning

to make his mark as an aircraft design- er, the Bolshevik Revolution was sweep- ing across Russia. The decision to leave Russia weighed heavily on Sikorsky. Ultimately, he realized the chaos and disorder caused by the Bolshevik Revolution would not allow him to continue his aeronautical endeavors. In 1918, Igor Sikorsky left behind his loved ones and a fortune worth about a half million dollars when he boarded a


ship in Murmansk headed for England. Igor made his way to Paris where he started work on a new French military bomber. However, World War I ended before the bomber was completed. The European post-war aviation industry subsequently went into decline and the French bomber project was canceled (Dealer, 1969). With little hope of having any aviation success in Europe and unable to return to Russia, Sikorsky decided he would head to America to begin a new life and resume his aviation career. In March of 1919, Igor Sikorsky arrived in New York with no friends, no job and only $600. Sikorsky tried to restart his aviation career but found it difficult to compete with the price of surplus military aircraft being sold by the government after the war. Igor Sikorsky struggled to get by for several years and found work teaching math and physics at a Russian refugee school (Sikorsky, 2007).

In 1922, urged on by a former Russian Navy pilot who offered the use of his farm and home on Long Island, Igor Sikorsky resumed his aviation endeavors. Four years after arriving in the United States, Sikorsky founded the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation on March 5, 1923. His first American design was the S-29A, a biplane powered by two 400 horsepow- er engines with room for fourteen pas- sengers. It was the largest airplane ever constructed in America at the time. Although the S-29A design was sound and some interest was generated, money was sparse for Sikorsky’s strug- gling company. Fortunately, this changed in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh made his historic flight across the Atlantic. Overnight there was tremendous interest in aviation. Sikorsky ventured into seaplanes and later developed a series of revolutionary amphibious designs starting with the S- 38 and ending with the S-44. Especially innovative was the S-42 which first flew in 1934. The S-42 set world records for range, payload and speed which were previously thought unattainable.

These amphibians

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