There time and had many hurdles to overcome


            There are many remarkable aviation pioneers
that deserve recognition not only for their brilliant minds, but also the
visionary outlook they saw for the future of flying. Many of these developers,
such as the Wright Brothers and Glen Curtiss, were ahead of their time and had
many hurdles to overcome in order for the public to share their same vision. As
this dream was becoming a reality in the early years of the 20th century,
it was Igor Sikorsky who took it one step further and proved himself to be a
mind that would contribute greatly to the unbounded future of aeronautics.

            Igor Sikorsky, like other aviation
pioneers, was working to create something that technology was unable to fully
support. Since his childhood, Sikorsky had aspirations to see luxurious flying
machines carry passengers as a mode of transportation. While he studied
engineering, Sikorsky attended school in Paris, St. Petersburg, and finally
finished his education in Kiev, Russia; which today is the capital of Ukraine (Giges, 2013). It was during
this time that he designed his first rotary wing aircraft. Aviation being a
relatively new concept contributed to the inability to achieve successful
flight from this machine during 1909 and 1910 (Giges, 2013).  In
1913, however, Sikorsky gained considerable recognition following his design of
the first four-engine, fixed wing aircraft.  Although originally designed for passenger
transport, the S-22, Sikorsky Il’ya
Muromets, went on to be produced as bombers for the Russian Empire during
the first World War (Kulikov,
2000). It was not until Sikorsky fled to the United States that his
vision for helicopters was able to take off.

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            Following the Bolshevik Revolution, Igor
Sikorsky made his way to New York in 1919. He worked several years as a teacher
for Russian immigrants before beginning his own aeronautical engineering company in 1923 (Sikorsky,
Jr., n.d.). Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation began on a small farm in Long
Island and would go on to produce several notable aircraft. While technology
for Sikorsky’s helicopter vision was not yet existent, the early years of his
company were spent designing and developing flying boats. Such designs as the
S-29A, S-38, and S-42 would be used by Pan American World Airways to transport
passengers from the United States to
the Caribbean, South America, and later to destinations as far as Europe

(Igor Sikorsky Historical Archives, 2012).

            Remarkably, his success in
developing flying boats does not yet reach the pinnacle of Sikorsky’s contribution
to aviation. His
vision for an aircraft design capable of vertical flight was shared by several
others around the world during this time. It was Germany who would see the
first successful flight of such an aircraft, in 1936. Germany’s twin-rotor design
was successful at creating vertical lift but, unfortunately, lacked control
(Bilstein, 2001). Although others were working on this same concept during the
time, Sikorsky is rightfully dubbed the “father of the helicopter industry” for
providing the solution that allowed controlled flight in a rotary wing aircraft
(Sikorsky, Jr., n.d.). It was not until 1939, that Sikorsky was able to resolve
these control problems with his design of the VS-300 helicopter. He was the
first to use a vertical tail rotor to alleviate the torque effect, a problem
that had stumped engineers up until this point. A vision he held for more than
two decades, was not only brought to life, but would set the standard for
future helicopter design. When Sikorsky was given a contract by the U.S. Army
Air Corps in 1940 to produce the R-4B for military use, the future of rotary
wing aircraft was established (Bilstein, 2001). The R-4B debuted during World
War II when it was used to deliver supplies, carry out medical evacuation
operations, and drop soldiers in locations unreachable by fixed wing aircraft. This
was the beginning of an alternate generation of flying machines, capable of
what the existing aircraft were not. After World War II, rotary wing aircraft inventory
skyrocketed with the increased demand brought by the Korean War and Vietnam
War. After these two wars, helicopters solidified their place in militaries
around the world by proving how important of an asset they can be on the
battlefield. It is an interesting inquiry as to whether or not Igor Sikorsky
fully recognized the potential for vertical lift aircraft at the time he was
designing the VS-300.

            Since the VS-300 design, helicopters
have seen many advancements and have come to be of great importance to aviation.

Due to the maneuverability of this aircraft, it is employed largely for rescue missions
by both civilian and military operations. The ability of the helicopter to
hover, land and takeoff from restricting terrain, gives it a great advantage over
fixed wing aircraft. Today, this same design has been implemented by nearly every
military helicopter in U.S. inventory. From Bell’s H-1 series to Boeing’s AH-64
Apache to Sikorsky’s very own H-60 series, Ivor Sikorsky’s ideas and design influence
can be seen.

 

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