Tag Archives: Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky

14 September 1939

The prototype VS-300 helicopter clears the ground for the first time, 14 September 1939. Igor Sikorsky is at the controls. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
The prototype VS-300 helicopter clears the ground for the first time, 14 September 1939. Igor Sikorsky is at the controls. His right foot rests on the anti-torque pedal. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

14 September 1939: At Stratford, Connecticut, Igor Sikorsky made the first tethered flight of the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 prototype helicopter. The duration of the flight was just 10 seconds but demonstrated that the helicopter could be controlled.

The Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 was the first successful single main rotor, single tail rotor helicopter.

The three-bladed main rotor had a diameter of 28 feet (8.534 meters) and turned approximately 255 r.p.m. The rotor turned clockwise as seen from above (the advancing blade is on the left). This would later be reversed. A counter-weighted single blade anti-torque rotor with a length of 3 feet, 4 inches (1.016 meters) is mounted on the left side of the monocoque beam tail boom in a pusher configuration and turns counter-clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left (the advancing blade is above the axis of rotation).

Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 under construction, 8 September 1939. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 under construction, 8 September 1939. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

In the initial configuration, the VS-300 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 144.489-cubic-inch-displacement (2.368 liter) Lycoming O-145-C3 horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder, direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. It was rated at 75 horsepower at 3,100 r.p.m., using 73-octane gasoline. It was equipped with a single Stromberg carburetor and dual Scintilla magnetos. The dry weight of the O-145-C3 was 167 pounds (75.75 kilograms). Later in the VS-300’s development, the Lycoming was replaced by a 90-horsepower Franklin 4AC-199 engine.

On 19 December 1939, the VS-300 was rolled over by a gust of wind and damaged. It was rebuilt, however, and developed through a series of configurations. It made its first free (untethered) flight 13 May 1940.

Test flights continued for several years. After 102 hours, 32 minutes, 26 seconds of flight, the VS-300 was donated to the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan.

Igor Sikorsky adjusts is fedora while at teh controls of the VS-300. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky adjusts his fedora while at the controls of the VS-300. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 June 1913

Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky, 1914. (Karl Karlovich Bulla)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky, 1914. (Karl Karlovich Bulla)

23 June 1913: While parked at St. Petersberg, Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky’s S-21, Русский Витязь (Russky Vityaz or “Russian Knight”), the world’s first four-engine airplane, and, at the time, the world’s largest airplane, was crushed by an engine that had fallen off of a single-engine Morane-Saulnier airplane that was flying overhead.

Igor Sikorsky began work on the S-21 in 1911, while chief engineer for Russko-Baltiisky Vagonny Zavod at St. Petersburg, and it first flew 10 May 1913. It was a four-engine biplane operated by a crew of three and could carry up to seven passengers in two enclosed cabins. These cabins were large enough that the passengers could stand and move  around.

The S-21 was 20 meters (65.6 feet) long. The upper wing had a span of 27 meters (88.6 feet) and the lower wing, 20 meters (65.6 feet). Overall height of the airplane was 4 meters (13.1 feet). Its empty weight was 3,400 kilograms (7,496 pounds) and the gross weight was 4,000 kilograms (8,818 pounds).

Sikorsky S-21 in flight, 1913
Sikorsky S-21 in flight, 1913

Russky Vityaz was powered by four water-cooled Argus Motoren G.m.b.H. As 1 inline four-cylinder engines in a tractor configuration. These produced 100 horsepower, each, and turned two-bladed fixed-pitch propellers. The biplane had a maximum speed of 90 kilometers per hour (56 miles per hour), service ceiling of just 600 meters (1,969 feet) and range of 170 kilometers (106 miles).

Rather than try to repair the wrecked S-21, Sikorsky decided to build something even bigger: the Sikorsky S-22 Ilya Muromets.

Igor Sikorsky emigrated to the United States of America in 1919, where he designed and built large seaplanes for airline use before focusing on the development of the helicopter, beginning with the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300. His company remains in operation today and produces some of the most widely used military and commercial helicopters.

 Igor Sikorsky's S-21, Russky Vityaz, four-engine airplane, 1913. (RIA Novosti)
Igor Sikorsky’s S-21 four-engine airplane, Russky Vitaz 1913. (RIA Novosti)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 May 1889–26 October 1972

Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky, 1914. (Karl Karlovich Bulla)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky, 1914. Sikorsky is wearing the cross of the Imperial Order of St. Vladimir. (Karl Karlovich Bulla)

25 May 1889: И́горь Ива́нович Сико́рский (Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky) was born at Kiev, Russian Empire, the fifth of five children of Professor Ivan Alexeevich Sikorsky and Doctor Mariya Stefanovich Sikorskaya.

15 year-old Midshipman Igor Ivanovich Sikorksky, at lower right, with his sisters Olga, Lydia and Elena, and brother Sergei, 1904. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
15 year-old Midshipman Igor Ivanovich Sikorksky, Imperial Naval Academy, at lower right, with his sisters Olga, Lydia and Elena, and brother Sergei, 1904. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

He studied at the Imperial Naval Academy, St. Petersburg, from 1903 until 1906, when he left to study engineering, first in Paris, and then at the Kiev Polytechnic Institute.

Airplane pilot Igor Sikorsky with a passenger. (RIA Novosti)
Pilot Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky with a passenger, circa 1914. (RIA Novosti)

Flying an airplane of his own design, the S-5, on 18 April 1911, he received a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale pilot’s license from L’Aéro-Club Imperial de Russie (Imperial Russian Aero Club).

Igor I. Sikorsky's FAI pilot's license. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor I. Sikorsky’s FAI pilot’s license. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

He was chief aircraft engineer for Russko-Baltiisky Vagonny Zavod at St. Petersburg and continued to develop airplanes. In 1913, he flew the twin engine S-21 Le Grand, to which he added two more engines, and it became the Russky Vityaz.

Igor Sikorsky with one of his early biplanes.
Igor Sikorsky with one of his early biplanes.
Sikorsky S-21 in flight
Sikorsky’s S-21 in flight, 1913

Igor Sikorsky married Olga Fyodorovna Simkovich. They had a daughter, Tania. The couple soon divorced, however.

Compagnie Générale Transatlantique liner, SS La Lorraine, 11,146 gross tons.
Compagnie Générale Transatlantique liner, SS La Lorraine, 11,146 gross tons.

Following the October Revolution, Sikorsky emigrated to the United States. Departing Le Havre, France, aboard SS La Lorraine, he arrived at New York on 31 March 1919. With financial backing from composer and conductor Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff, he founded the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Company at Long Island, New York, in 1924, and continued designing and building airplanes.

In 1924, Sikorsky married Elisabeth Semion, who was also born in Russia, in 1903. They would have four children. In 1928, he became a citizen of the United States of America.

Sikorsky S-39 amphibian NC54V (Civil Air Patrol)
Sikorsky S-39 amphibian NC54V (Civil Air Patrol)

Beginning in 1934, Sikorsky Aircraft produced the S-42 flying boat for Pan American Airways at a new plant at Stratford, Connecticut.

U.S. Navy RS-1 (Sikorsky S-41) (National Museum of Naval Aviation)
U.S. Navy RS-1 (Sikorsky S-41) (National Museum of Naval Aviation)
A Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42, NC16742, moored at Honolulu, Territory of the Hawaiian Islands. (hawaii.gov/hawaiiaviation)
Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42, NC16734, moored at Honolulu, Territory of the Hawaiian Islands. (hawaii.gov/hawaiiaviation)

Interested in helicopters since the age of 9, he directed his creative effort toward the development of a practical “direct-lift” aircraft. The first successful design was the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300. Using a single main rotor, the VS-300 went through a series of configurations before arriving at the single anti-torque tail rotor design, the VS-316A. This was put into production for the U.S. military as the Sikorsky R-4.

The prototype VS-300 helicopter clears the ground for the first time, 14 September 1939. Igor Sikorsky is at the controls. His right foot rests on the anti-torque pedal. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
The prototype VS-300 helicopter clears the ground for the first time, 14 September 1939. Igor Sikorsky is at the controls. His right foot rests on the anti-torque pedal. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky hovers the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
Igor Sikorsky hovers the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300A. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
On behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the National Aeronautic Association of the United States issued Helicopter Pilot Certificate No. 1 to Igor I. Sikorsky, 10 December 1940. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
On behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the National Aeronautic Association of the United States issued Helicopter Pilot Certificate No. 1 to Igor I. Sikorsky, 10 December 1940. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky in the cockpit of a production R-5 helicopter. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
Igor Sikorsky in the cockpit of a Sikorsky S-48 (R-5) helicopter. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

The company which Igor Sikorsky founded has continued as one of the world’s biggest helicopter manufacturers. Recently acquired by Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky continues to produce the UH-60-series of Blackhawk medium helicopters, the large CH-53K King Stallion, and the civil S-76D and S-92. A variant of the S-92 has been selected as the next helicopter for the U.S. presidential air fleet, the VH-92A. This helicopter is planned to be operational by 2020.

Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky died at Easton, Connecticut, 26 October 1972 at the age of 83 years.

Igor Sikorsky piloting his pontoon-equipped VS-300, 17 April 1941. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky piloting his pontoon-equipped VS-300, 17 April 1941. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
s-47-4
Les Morris at the controls of the Vought-Sikorsky XR-4, 41-18874 (VS-316A), on its first flight at Stratford, Connecticut, 14 January 1942. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Lt. Carter Harman hovering in ground effect with Sikorsky YR-4B Hoverfly 43-28247 at Lalaghat, India, March 1944. This is the helicopter with which he made the first combat rescue, 21-25 April 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
Lt. Carter Harman hovering in ground effect with Sikorsky YR-4B Hoverfly 43-28247 at Lalaghat, India, March 1944. This is the helicopter with which he made the first combat rescue, 21-25 April 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
A Sikorsky R-5 flown by Jimmy Viner with Captain Jack Beighle, lifts a crewman from Texaco Barge No. 397, aground on Penfield Reef, 29 November 1945. (Sikorsky Historical Archive)
U.S. Army R-5 (Sikorsky S-48) flown by Jimmy Viner with Captain Jack Beighle, lifts a crewman from Texaco Barge No. 397, aground on Penfield Reef, 29 November 1945. (Sikorsky Historical Archive)
Sikorsky R-5 medevac, Korean War
U.S. Air Force H-5 (Sikorsky S-51) lifts off during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Coast Guard HOS-1 (Sikorsky S-49), with Igor Sikorsky as a passenger, over the Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, 17 December 1947—the 44th annivesary of teh Wright Brothers first controlled, powered airplane flight. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
U.S. Coast Guard HOS-1 (Sikorsky S-49), with Igor Sikorsky as a passenger, over the Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, 17 December 1947—the 44th annivesary of the Wright Brothers first controlled, powered airplane flight. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
U.S. Army YH-18A 49-2889 (Sikorsky S-52-2) (Ed Coates Collection)
U.S. Army YH-18A 49-2889 (Sikorsky S-52-2) (Ed Coates Collection)
SH-19A Air Rescue Sqd. AR.1999.026
U.S. Air Force SH-19A Chickasaw 51-3850 (Sikorsky S-55), Air Rescue Service. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky H-34A-SI Choctaw (S-58) 57-1743 hovers in ground effect. Later registered as a civilian aircraft, N47246). (U.S. Army)
U.S. Army H-34A-SI Choctaw (Sikorsky S-58) 57-1743 hovers in ground effect. Later registered as a civilian aircraft, N47246). (U.S. Army)
Sikorsky CH-37 Mojave heavy-lift helicopter
U.S. Marine Corps CH-37 Mojave (Sikorsky S-56) heavy-lift helicopter
A U.S. Navy Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King (S-61), Bu. No. 149867, near Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, 5 April 1976. (PH2 (AC) Westhusing, U.S. Navy)
U.S. Navy SH-3A Sea King (Sikorsky S-61), Bu. No. 149867, near Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, 5 April 1976. (PH2 (AC) Westhusing, U.S. Navy)
A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (66-13290) ot the 37th ARRS, hovering in ground effect at Da Nang, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (Sikorsky S-61R), 66-13290, of the 37th ARRS, hovering in ground effect at Da Nang, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe 68-18448, Nevada National Guard, 16 Nober 1989. (Mike Freer/Wikipedia)
U.S. Army CH-54A Tarhe 68-18448 (Sikorsky S-64) heavy-lift helicopter, Nevada National Guard, 16 November 1989. (Mike Freer/Wikipedia)
Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Low IV, 68-8424, prepares for its last combat mission, Iraq, 27 September 2008. (A1C Jason Epley, U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force MH-53M Pave Low IV 68-8424 (Sikorsky S-65), prepares for its last combat mission, Iraq, 27 September 2008. (A1C Jason Epley, U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers dismount a Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, 21 January 2010. (Staff Sergeany Aubree Clute, U.S. Army)
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers dismount a Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, 21 January 2010. (Staff Sergeant Aubree Clute, U.S. Army)
U.S. Army UH-60L Blackhawk (Sikorsky S-70), Iraq, 2004. (Staff Sergeant Suzanne M. Jenkins, U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Army UH-60L Blackhawk (Sikorsky S-70), Iraq, 2004. (Staff Sergeant Suzanne M. Jenkins, U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 89-26212. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk (Sikorsky S-70) 89-26212, Kunar Province, Afghanistan. (Captain Erick Saks, U.S. Air Force)
British Airways' Sikorsky S-61N G-BEON, 1982. ( )
British Airways’ Sikorsky S-61N G-BEON, 1982.
An Erickson Air-Crane, Inc. Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane drops water on a forest fire. (Sikorsky Archives)
An Erickson Air-Crane, Inc., Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane drops water on a forest fire. (Sikorsky Archives)
1280px-040327-pb-firehawk-17-16
A Los Angeles County Fire Department Sikorsky S-70A Firehawk, N160LA, during a rescue near Palmdale, California, 27 March 2004. (Alan Radecki/Wikipedia)
A Queen's Helicopter Flight Sikorsky S-76C, s/n 760753, G-XXEB (Russell Lee/Wikipedia)
A Queen’s Helicopter Flight Sikorsky S-76C, s/n 760753, G-XXEB (Russell Lee/Wikipedia)
Cougar Helicopters' Sikorsky S-92A C-GKKN landing at Ilulissat Airport, Greenland, 5 August 2010. (Algkalv/Wikipedia)
Cougar Helicopters’ Sikorsky S-92A C-GKKN landing at Ilulissat Airport, Greenland, 5 August 2010. (Algkalv/Wikipedia)
Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion (Sikorsky, A Lockheed Martin Company)
The prototype Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion (Sikorsky, A Lockheed Martin Company)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 May 1941

Igor Sikorsky with his VS-300A, Stratford, Connecticut, 6 May 1941. (Sikorsky Archives)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky 1888–1970. Sikorsky Archives)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky 1889–1972. (Sikorsky Archives)

6 May 1941: At Stratford, Connecticut, Igor Sikorsky piloted his Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 helicopter to a new world’s record for endurance. He flew for 1 hour, 32 minutes, 26 seconds. The previous record—1 hour, 20 minutes, 49 seconds—had been set by Ewald Rohlfs with the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 tandem-rotor helicopter, 25 June 1937.

During its development, the VS-300 went through at least 18 changes in its rotor configuration. This photograph, taken after the record-setting flight, shows an intermediate version, with one main rotor for lift and three auxiliary rotors for anti-torque and directional control.

In the final configuration, Sikorsky arrived at what we now recognize as a helicopter, with the main rotor providing lift, thrust and roll control through variable collective and cyclic pitch, and a single tail rotor for anti-torque and yaw control.

The VS-300 had a welded tubular steel airframe and used a 28-foot (5.34 meters) diameter, fully-articulated, three-bladed main rotor, which turned clockwise (as seen from above) at 260 r.p.m. (The advancing blade was on the left. This would later be reversed.) The main rotor had collective pitch control for vertical control, but cyclic pitch (Sikorsky referred to this as “sectional control”) for directional control would not be developed for another several months.

The tail “propellers” (what we now consider to be rotors—one vertical and two horizontal) each had two blades with a diameter of 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters) and turned approximately 1,300 r.p.m. The vertical rotor provided “torque compensation” (anti-torque) and the blade pitch was fully reversible. The horizontal rotors were mounted on 10-foot (3.048 meters) outriggers at the aft end of the fuselage. For lateral control, the pitch on one rotor was increased and the other decreased. For longitudinal control, the pitch of both rotors was increased or decreased together.

The VS-300 was originally equipped with an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 144.489-cubic-inch-displacement (2.368 liter) Lycoming O-145C-3 four-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine which was rated at 75 horsepower at 3,100 r.p.m. According to Mr. Sikorsky, “early in 1941,” the Lycoming engine was replaced by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 198.608 cubic inch (3.255 liter) Franklin 4AC-199-E, a four-cylinder horizontally-opposed overhead valve (OHV) direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 7:1, rated at 90 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. It is not known if this change was made prior to 6 May.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 April 1941

Igor Sikorsky piloting his pontoon-equipped VS-300, 17 April 1941. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky piloting his pontoon-equipped VS-300, 17 April 1941. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

17 April 1941: Igor Sikorsky’s Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 helicopter went through various rotor configurations during development as he searched for a combination that would give stability, anti-torque control, as well as lateral and yaw control. By April 1941, the VS-300 was configured with a single main rotor for lift and three smaller tail rotors to provide anti-torque and directional control.

This was not the ultimate solution, but on 17 April, he had the aircraft fitted with three inflatable pontoons and made a successful water landing, demonstrating that the helicopter could be a practical amphibious aircraft. During a lecture to the Rotating Wing Section of the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, Igor Sikorsky gave a brief description of the flight:

Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky 1888–1970. Sikorsky Archives)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky 1888–1970. Sikorsky Archives)

“On April 17 the helicopter, mounted on rubber floats, was repeatedly taken off from water and landed on water and then landed on ground, demonstrating for the first time a direct lift aircraft with excellent amphibian characteristics on which no adjustments whatsoever are needed when going from water to land and vice versa.”

The VS-300 had a welded tubular steel airframe and used a 28-foot (5.34 meters) diameter, fully-articulated, three-bladed main rotor, which turned clockwise (as seen from above) at 260 r.p.m. (The advancing blade was on the left. This would later be reversed.) The main rotor had collective pitch control for vertical control, but cyclic pitch (Sikorsky referred to this as “sectional control”) for directional control would not be developed for another several months.

The tail “propellers” (what we now consider to be rotors—one vertical and two horizontal) each had two blades with a diameter of 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters) and turned approximately 1,300 r.p.m. The vertical rotor provided “torque compensation” (anti-torque) and the blade pitch was fully reversible. The horizontal rotors were mounted on 10-foot (3.048 meters) outriggers at the aft end of the fuselage. For lateral control, the pitch on one rotor was increased and the other decreased. For longitudinal control, the pitch of both rotors was increased or decreased together.

Igor Sikorsky banks the VS-300 through assymetric pitch of the horizontal tail rotors. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Igor Sikorsky banks the VS-300 through assymetric pitch of the horizontal tail rotors. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

The VS-300 was originally equipped with an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 144.489-cubic-inch-displacement (2.368 liter) Lycoming O-145C-3 four-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine which was rated at 75 horsepower at 3,100 r.p.m. According to Mr. Sikorsky, “early in 1941,” the Lycoming engine was replaced by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 198.608 cubic inch (3.255 liter) Franklin 4AC-199-E, a four-cylinder horizontally-opposed overhead valve (OHV) direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 7:1, rated at 90 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. It is not known if this change was made prior to 17 April.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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