Igor Sikorsky

One name is synonymous with helicopter development more than any other Igor Sikorsky (1889-1972). Often regarded as the father of the helicopter, Sikorsky was an incredibly talented and versatile aeronautical engineer who first established himself as one of the world’s greatest designers of fixed wing aircraft before he built a successful helicopter. Born in Kyiv, a youthful Igor Sikorsky showed a strong interest in experimenting with model flying machines. When he was 12 years old, he made a small rubber-powered helicopter that could rise into the air. After studying engineering in Paris and St. Petersburg, Sikorsky finished his studies at the Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv that now bears his name. While on vacation with his father in the Bavarian Alps in 1908, he saw his first pictures of the aeroplanes the Wright brothers had designed. It was this experience that set Igor Sikorsky on his lifelong career in aeronautical engineering. Returning to Kyiv, he began construction of a helicopter but after a couple of tries in 1909 and 1910, he abandoned the idea because the technology just was not there at the time. For the next decade, he worked on fixed-wing planes in Russia and became known internationally in 1913 when he designed and flew the first four-engine airplane later converted for use as a World War I bomber. His airplanes and biplanes twice won military aircraft competitions and by 1917 he had become a national hero. The Russian Revolution, however, did not spare even the heroes, and in 1919 Sikorsky had to emigrate to the USA, where he founded the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation.

Igor Sikorsky

Igor Sikorsky’s first American design was the S-29A.

His first American design was the S-29A which, at the time, was the largest airplane ever constructed in America. The S-29A flew successfully in 1924, followed by other aircraft including a number of flying boats and the first international aircraft capable of flying to Central and South America. Eventually, Sikorsky’s planes would cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. But Igor Sikorsky never gave up on building a successful helicopter and by 1939 Sikorsky’s VS-300 was ready to make its first flight. In 1941, Sikorsky Aircraft got its first contract from the U.S. Army Air Corps for an observation helicopter that became known for lifesaving missions in military and civil emergencies. Sikorsky was most proud of his helicopter that could rescue and bring aid. Igor Sikorsky was recognized with countless honors and awards during the course of his life, such as the National Medal of Science, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, induction into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame and the Aviation Hall of Fame. The famous Sikorsky hat (fedora) is preserved in Igor Sikorsky’s office at the Smithsonian Institution (USA); a Kyiv airport (Zhulyany) bears his name; and the Sikorsky Monument (architect Nikolay Oliynyk) was opened near the KPI in 2008.

Victoria Ugryumova


This article was published in the book Interesting Kyiv.
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© Sky Horse Publishing House (Kyiv) / Nahs Haus, 2019
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