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ects that included S-55 production in Japan, the S-64 “Flying Crane” proto- type and CH-53 production for the German military. In 1975 Mr. Sikorsky was reassigned to Sikorsky corporate headquarters where he worked on for- eign and domestic marketing assign- ments. He eventually retired as the Vice President of Special Projects in 1992. Mr. Sikorsky remains active as an avia- tion consultant, a member of several aviation organizations and a highly regarded authority on helicopter histo- ry. After 70 years in the helicopter business he has accumulated a long list of honors and awards which include Sweden’s Royal Aeronautical Society’s Thulin Bronze Medal, an Honorary Doctorate in Aviation Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and designation as a Technical Fellow in the American Helicopter Society.


RPM: You’ve had a remarkable association with helicopters and I’m not sure where to start so I guess I’ll go to the beginning. You grew up around aviation and in 1942 were working in your father’s shop on the first North American helicopter the VS- 300. As one of the few people to have seen this machine up close what are your earliest recollections of this historic aircraft and what can you say about the impact that the VS-300 had on history? SS: You can say that I grew up around aviation, my first recollections of aviation were as a seven and eight year old when I would watch the Sikorsky Clipper Ships being delivered to Pan America Airlines and other customers around 1932-35. That’s when my love affair with aviation began. I remember around 1935-1936 my father would retire to his office at home to sketch out ideas for the helicopter, working on fly- ing boats during the day and spending his evenings on the helicopter. He would make these sketches and I would carve the helicopters out of balsa wood. Then my father would take the models that I had made to his engineers to stimulate their interest in the helicop- ter, explain principles and garner sup- port and enthusiasm. I was about fif- teen or sixteen years old at the time


when I made these demonstrator mod- els. I worked in the Sikorsky Factory in 1942 and 1943. Although I wasn’t pres- ent for the very first flight, I remember clearly the early hops of the VS-300. I was actively engaged as a grease monkey, climbing up onto the top of the heli- copter to grease the automobile bear- ings with a grease gun. The importance of the VS-300 is the fact that my father pioneered and developed a single main rotor with tail rotor configuration which had previously been talked about but considered impossible or impracti- cal by the other pioneers of the day. It was widely believed that the helicopter could only be successful if there were


RPM: Around that same time you flew with your father in the VS-300. This would make you one of the few people to have actually flown in the VS-300 and one of the first helicopter passengers ever. What do you remember about your flights in the VS-300? SS: I flew in the VS-300 on sever- al occasions; my flights in it were towards the tail end of its development when it was being used to test several ideas that my father had. I flew stand- ing on the main landing gear holding onto the bracing around the main rotor shaft. Later a small second cockpit was added near the shaft so as not to disturb the center of gravity. I also flew in it sit- ting on this small platform. My father was the pilot and flew in the front cock- pit, there was no way for me to touch the controls due to the configuration, all of the controls led to the open cock- pit in the front.


Sergei Sikorsky


two rotors to cancel out each other’s torque effects. The first Sikorsky patent applications for the single main rotor are dated in the early 1930s. My father decided to stick with this configuration and ultimately the VS-300 proved the versatility of the single main rotor and tail rotor concept. After the VS-300 had flown and up to the present day, 96% of all helicopters are based on the single main rotor and tail rotor config- uration used on the VS-300. So I would say that the overwhelming signif- icance of the VS-300 was that it proved the method that has become by far the most popular configuration of the hel- icopter.


35


RPM: In 1943 your father made his final flight in the VS-300 and then personally donated it to Henry Ford for inclusion in the Henry Ford Museum. How hard was it for your father to part with his first successful helicopter? SS: I think that it was very hard for my dad to let go of the machine. Henry Ford mentions in one of his correspon- dences that my dad slowly climbed out after his last flight and stroked the side of the helicopter. Dad said to Mr. Ford afterwards, “She was a good ship, a sweet little ship.” I think that this sums up his love and attachment to the VS-300.


RPM: Did your father talk about the VS- 300 much after he donated to the museum? SS: On occasion when he was rem- iniscing he would talk about the VS- 300. However, the period following the donation was a very intense period for Sikorsky aircraft. The R-4 was being launched and the R-5 and R-6 designs were being finalized.


Dad’s


plate was pretty full working out the bugs and redesigning the R-4 and designing the R-5 and R-6.


RPM: Your father had the monumental task of not only developing a new type of aircraft but also teaching himself how to fly it as it was devel-


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