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RPM: Most aviation historians would agree that the developments associated with the Autogiro in 1920s and 1930s significantly influenced heli- copter development in the 1930s and 1940s. Did your father closely follow Autogiro development and how much impact did it have on his ability to build the first successful North American helicopter? SS:


Autogiro development


undoubtedly had a large impact on the ability to build the first successful heli- copter. The helicopter rotor blades were Autogiro blades that came to the helicopter from the Autogiro with no difficulties. The concept of the flap- ping hinge and the lead lag hinge were pioneered in the Autogiro. These con- cepts came direct from the Autogiro to the helicopter and were crucial to the first successful helicopter flight.


RPM: Even before he built his first successful helicopter, your father believed the helicopter would be extremely useful for humanitarian pur- poses. This proved to be very prophet- ic. It is hard to put a number on just how many people the helicopter has helped and how many lives it has saved.


Just as one example of the impact heli- copters have had is the Sikorsky HH- 52. The US Coast Guard operated 97 HH-52 Seaguards over a 25 year period and during that time they saved over 15,000 lives. Do you think that before he passed away he was able to fully real- ize how right he was and comprehend how many people the helicopter would be able to help? SS: The HH-52 is one of my favorite helicopters and I think that it did noble service with the Coast Guard. My dad did realize that all of his predic- tions for the helicopter as a unique instrument for saving human lives had come true. When he passed away he was very aware of the helicopter’s life saving missions and deeds and was very proud of this. I remember one episode involving a unique life saving mission. In the mid 1960s a Danish ferry was caught in a fierce unexpected storm in the North Sea. The Royal Danish Air Force had just taken delivery of the Sikorsky S-61 or H-3 and rescued a number of people from the sinking ship. I went to Copenhagen shortly


after the rescue to interview the aircrews and wrote up a report.


I was very


pleased when my dad’s secretary told me that he asked for a copy of the report, copied it and sent it out to some of his friends and acquaintances.


RPM: While your father is probably best known for his helicopter work, many people don’t realize that he was an extremely gifted fixed wing aeronautical engineer and pilot as well. Among other things, he built the first four engine airplane and designed some very popular flying boats. Of all his aircraft, both fixed and rotary wing, which one was his favorite? SS: I asked him that question myself many years ago. His answer was that this was a very difficult question to answer because he had one or two out- standing machines as both a fixed wing and helicopter engineer. With a twin- kle in his eye he said that the Grand was very important in his career as it estab- lished him as an aeronautical engineer and pilot. He also said that it was also one of the most difficult aircraft to fly. It took off at 60 mph, cruised at 60 mph and stalled at 60 mph. It was


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