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 Igor Sikorsky

Born:   May 25, 1889
Deceased:   October 26, 1972

the pioneer of aviation, an engineer of a first helicopter


Igor Sikorsky, the pioneer of aviation, was born in Kiev on May 25, 1889. Since childhood, future engineer’s hobby was building model airplanes. The boy was 12, when he built a small helicopter with a rubber band gear.

The engineer was educated in Sea Cadet Corps in St. Petersburg between 1903 and 1906, later he continued his studies in Kiev Polytechnic Institute. Sikorsky studied engineering and France and Germany. In 1908 Igor Sikorsky went traveling to Europe, where he met Wright brothers and other inventors. In 1909 and 1910 the engineer built two flying machines, but failed to make them fly. In 1910-1911 the engineer created several aircrafts of S-series, and in summer 1910 S-5 biplane, equipped with 50 horsepower engine, performed 1-hour-long flight, reaching height of 450 meters. The same year Sikorsky got his pilot certificate in International aviation federation.

In 1912 Igor Sikorsky was invited to St. Petersburg as a chief designer of aviation department on Russia-Baltic car factory, where designed about 20 test aircrafts during following 2 years. Sikorsky was the author of first Russian large aircrafts like “Grand Baltiysky”, which was later renamed into “Russkiy Vityaz’” (Russian Hero), and 4-motor “Ilya Murometz”, which had unique carrying capacity and flight range. During World War I, 75 4-motor Sikorsky bombers were built and put into service. Designed by Sikorsky, an airbus could carry 17 passengers, providing them with light, heating, toilet and even observation deck. Over 90 “Ilya Murometz” aircrafts were built before 1917, and only one of them was brought down during World War I.

In 1918 Sikorsky went to Europe, and in March 1919 moved to the United States. There he read lectures and worked as a teacher for several years. In 1923 Sikorsky joined several Russian immigrants, and they founded a company, named “Sikorsky Engineering”. That company later was absorbed by “United Aircraft”. First aircraft, which was built by Sikorsky, was two-motor biplane S-29. In 1929 Sikorsky built a two-motor S-38 aircraft for “Pan American Airways”. The aircraft had short fuselage of a “flying boat” with high-set tail, and retractable landing gear.

After that, Sikorsky started developing flying vehicles with high wind loading. Four-motor S-40 (1931) and S-42 (1932) were first transport airplanes in the world, equipped with constant speed propellers. S-42, designed for long-range flights, had set a world height record in 1934 – 6220 meters above sea level, carrying over 4900 kilograms of useful load. The same year S-38 had set 8 world speed records.

The age of flying boats ended in late thirties, and Sikorsky returned to his beloved helicopters. In April 1939 Sikorsky’s company merged with “Voight” company and got the name “Voight-Sikorsky Aircrafts”. In early forties Sikorsky demonstrated his first helicopter flying along stable trajectory and showed his devotion to single-rotor helicopters. Sikorsky helicopters had set several world records; later they were accepted to the army and bought by various civil agencies and air companies. Helicopter S-51 was the star of war campaign in Korea. Sikorsky was the first engineer, who started building amphibian helicopters with retractable landing gear and “flying cranes”. Sikorsky helicopters were the first to cross Atlantic (S-61; 1967) and Pacific (S-65; 1970) oceans with air refueling.

Igor Sikorsky held many scientific titles and was full member of science societies of many countries. The engineer died in Easton, Connecticut, on October 26, 1972.

Tags: Russian constructors Aviation    

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