DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation was founded in 1923 by the Kyiev-born Ukrainian aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky following his move to the United States in 1919.
After receiving financial backing from several Russian expatriate supporters, the company was able to rent hangar space at Roosevelt Field in New York.
Sikorsky then began building his first aircraft, the Sikorsky S-29-A, a twin-engine sesquiplane airliner. The type was first flown in 1924. It was the first aircraft Sikorsky designed and built after coming to the United States, hence the special “-A” suffix signifying “America.”
The S-29-A was one of the first aircraft to make use of an airstair door located on the starboard side of the fuselage. Sikorsky made further modifications, and the type went on to tour America before being used and later destroyed in a film stunt by Howard Hughes.
But it was the construction of the “Clipper” long-range amphibious flying boats for Pan American (PA) that established the company. The most successful of these was the S-38, also utilized by the US military.
After the success of the S-38, the company was reorganized as the Sikorsky Aviation Corporation with a capital injection of US$5m, allowing the purchase of land and the building of a modern aircraft factory in Stratford, Massachusetts, and led by businessman Arnold Dickinson.
As land planes replaced amphibious airliners, Sikorsky revisited his previous studies on vertical flight machines. In 1939 work began on the first model, the VS-300, which first flew on September 14, 1939. He later refined the model for the US Army in January 1941. Dubbed the XR-4, the typeset an endurance record hovering for one hour and 30 minutes.
Sikorsky passed away on October 26, 1972. By this point, the helicopter had become well-established in both military and civilian operations. Various well-known models have been produced, including the experimental Sikorsky S-72 and the US Presidential helicopter ‘Marine One.’
Lockheed Martin purchased the company in July 2015 for US$9bn.
Featured image: Sikorsky S-76. Photo: Lockheed Martin.