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Dan Libertino

4/21/16

Mr. Libertino used his position as head of Sikorsky Archives to give us a short rendition of the life of Igor Sikorsky.  

Mr. Sikorsky started his career in Russia where he was born to well educated and connected parents.  Even at an early age Sikorsky was inspired with the idea of helicopters thanks to inspiration supplied by the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and Jules Verne.  His first attempt, following the acquisition of a 25 hp engine, was the construction of a helicopter model he called the H1.  It was an abject failure tipping over and self-destructing before it left the ground.  Sikorsky’s second attempt was called the H2.  He measured its lift capabilities and determined that it couldn’t carry a passenger.  

Following those attempts Sikorsky switched to fixed wing aircraft.  His success with these resulted in his being offered the position of head of a Russian aviation company at age 22.  Sikorsky’s success and innovation continued.  He envisioned and built the first multi-engine aircraft, which resulted in the creation of the first long-range bombers used in World War I.  While at the company, Igor built 157 aircraft in seven years.

The Russian Revolution took place in 1918 and Sikorsky emigrated to the U.S.  where he taught astronomy and mathematics to earn enough money to live on. By 1923 he had put aside enough money to start the first American Sikorsky aircraft company, which built a model called the S-29A.  The A stood for American.  Notwithstanding his accomplishments, Sikorsky was rapidly running out of money until the composer Rachmaninoff supplied him with an additional $5,000.

In 1929, Sikorsky sold the company to what later became United Technologies, but stayed on as its CEO.  This company produced the planes that were the beginning of the Pan Am fleet.  But he was still thinking of helicopters.  He started experimenting with them again and achieved the first helicopter lift-off and overcame the vibration problem that had plagued many designs.  The war soon followed and Sikorsky made military helicopters.  

In 1955 the present Sikorsky plant was dedicated in Stratford and as of today over 11,000 helicopters have been produced. 

Igor Sikorsky died in 1972.

Q&A

Q.  Was the 1930 Autogyro a precursor of the helicopter?

A.  Not really, but Sikorsky did use some of the designs from the Autogyro.

Q.  Who were the other early producers of helicopters?

A.  There were Bell and Boeing as well as some others, but Sikorsky was the first.

Q. Was the Jolly Green Giant a Sikorsky helicopter?

A.  Yes, it was one of the heavy lift models.

Q.  Is Igor Sikorsky Jr. his son?

A.  Yes.  He had five children.  Four boys and a girl.

Q.  Is Sikorsky Helicopter still offering tours?

A.  It is, but the group has to be cleared by security in advance.

Q.  Is the Sikorsky plant in danger of being relocated?

A.  It is now owned by Lockheed –Martin and they have been excellent owners.  They could move it, but I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future.

Q.  Aren’t there other helicopter museums in the area?

A.  There are two.  There is a very small helicopter museum in the Stratford railroad station and the Ct Air and Space Museum in Stratford, which is now on property offered for sale.

Q.  Was the Jolly Green Giant also known as the Crane?

A.  No. They are separate models.