May 25, 1889 - October 26, 1972
Igor Sikorsky was a world-famous Russian and American aircraft designer, the creator of the first helicopter and of several planes that revolutionized the industry, including the first planes that crossed the Atlantic.
Igor Sikorsky – creator of the first helicopter
Igor Sikorsky was born in Kiev (then Russian Empire, now - Ukraine) into the family of the well-known Kiev psychologist Ivan Sikorsky, but decided to tread the engineering path in his life: in 1907 he entered the Kiev Polytechnics Institute, where he fell in love with aircraft, entering a club run by the famous air travel pioneers, Artemyev and Delone. Interestingly, when everybody around him was raving about primitive biplanes, Sikorsky was interested in rotorcraft - machines that had first been envisioned by Leonardo Davinci, but could not be built for centuries because of unsurmountable technological issues.
Hobby grew into a career: by 1908-11 he had already built two primitive helicopters, and even showed them at the first air expo in Kiev.
Albeit unsuccessfully – both crafts were too heavy to lift off with the pilot. For a time, Sikorsky put the helicopter idea on hold, and went on to create his own plane C-2, which he piloted himself and in which he absolved pilot certification.
In 1912-14 he made a breakthrough in aircraft building, having built two heavy quad-motor planes, including the legendary "Ilya Muromets", that created city-wide excitement when in flyew over Kiev during a record-setting flight from Saint Petersburg to Kiev.
Notably, the creator of the first-ever strategic bomber also created the first-ever escort fighter, pre-determining the development of modern military aviation – during WWII his ideas were widely used by all the fighting parties.
Sikorsky also built the fastest plane of the time, developing the "amazing" 116 kmph!
With the start of the Russian Civil war, Sikorski was forced to flee Kiev to Arkhangelsk and later to Paris, where he tried, but failed, to start mass-producing military planes for the French army, and later moved to New York.
As with many an immigrant before him, in his new homeland Sikorsky faced the problem of adaptation and finding a new path in life - he had to earn his bread by teaching math...
In the end, like many an immigrant before him, he overcame the difficulties with flying colors, founding his own company Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation. Interestingly, in his darkest hours he was helped by another famous immigrant, Sergei Rakhmaninov
. As a result, before the start of WWII Sikorsky managed to build 15 different planes, including floatplanes that were the first to cross the Atlantic! An in September 1939 the first helicopter of his design lifted off successfully, the Vought-Sikorsky 300. Sikorsky's company prospered and became the largest American manufacturer of rotorcraft, both civil and military, for the U.S. Army.
In 1963, for his work in aircraft building, Sikorsky was awarded the prestigious ASME Medal. In 1972 Igor died in his house in Connecticut, and was interred in Statford. Later an asteroid was named after him.
Fortier, Rénald. "Igor Sikorsky: One Man, Three Careers." aviation.technomuses.ca,1996.
"About Sikorsky." Sikorsky Aircraft
"Military Mission." The Case Files: Igor Sikorsky, Franklin Institute.
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