Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky. May 25, 1889 – October 26, 1972. Russian and US aircraft designer, scientist, inventor and philosopher. Designer of Russky Vityaz, the first-in-the-world four-engine plane, the first heavy four-engine bomber and Ilya Muromets passenger plane and the first serial helicopter.
Life and Work:
1. Above the working desk at Sikorsky Memorial room at the town of Stratford in the USA there is a certificate he was most proud of throughout his life. This certificate states:
“License to steer an airplane” where the word “airplane” is crossed out and the word “helicopter” is written above. The certificate is issued under number 1. This is the brief version of the whole biography of Sikorsky – one of the first pilots and aircraft designers.
2. Igor Sikorsky was born in the family of Ivan Sikorsky, Kyiv University professor of psychiatry, however, he did not follow in his father’s footsteps. His interest in technology led him to Polytechnical institute.
3. He designed his first aircraft in 1910. After its crash Sikorsky found out that the reason was mosquitoes had got into its only engine carburetor. Sikorsky was overwhelmed, yet this is how he came to the idea that revolutionized aviation: he began creating multiengine aircraft, including Grand, Russky Vityaz and Ilya Muromets.
4. In 1914, the giant aircraft called Ilya Muromets made a record flight carrying 16 passengers on board. The vehicle was launched into serial production in time – World War I began. A powerful bomber and scout served the armed forces well. In 1921-1922, the refurbished Ilya Muromets carried passengers as well.
5. Besides, during World War I Sikorsky created a light scout plane, a two-engine fighter bomber and a strike aircraft, i.e., the range of almost all aircraft types required during the war.
6. Concurrently Sikorsky developed and launched the serial production of aircraft engines and supervised the establishment of the national aviation. At the age of 28 he became a national hero.
7. Then the revolution broke out. Sikorsky’s plans were ruined, and the civil war left no hope for the resumption of work. Sikorsky felt useless under the new rulers. In 1918 he accepted the French government’s invitation and a year later he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and found himself in the USA.
8. In 1923, he founded the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation, yet his path to success was not an easy one: the firm nearly went bankrupt. However, the worst did not happen thanks to the interference of Sergey Rachmaninoff, a great Russian composer, who sent Sikorsky a check for $5,000, which was a very significant amount back then.
9. Until 1939, Sikorsky had been building airplanes, but then he switched to designing helicopters. It was in the USA where he succeeded in what he began in 1908 but did not manage to complete – he created the first serial helicopter. After the Wright brothers Sikorsky was the only person capable of starting a serial production of an aerial vehicle. This is how US aviation engineers evaluated his contribution.
10. Sikorsky was the first to construct turbine helicopters, amphibian helicopters with retractable landing gear and “flying cranes.” His helicopters were the first to cross the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans being refueled in the air. Sikorsky died in the early 1970s, the father of the Russian aviation forgotten in his motherland.