Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky (Russian: И́горь Ива́нович
Сико́рский, IPA: [ˈiɡərʲ ɪˈvanəvitʃ
sʲɪˈkorskʲɪj] ( listen), tr. Ígor' Ivánovič
Sikórskij; May 25, 1889 – October 26, 1972), was a
Russian-American aviation pioneer in both helicopters and
fixed-wing aircraft. First success came with the S-2, the second
aircraft of his design and construction. His fifth airplane, the S-5,
won him national recognition as well as F.A.I. license Number 64. His
S-6-A received the highest award at the 1912 Moscow Aviation
Exhibition, and in the fall of that year the aircraft won for its
young designer, builder and pilot first prize in the military
competition at Saint Petersburg.
After immigrating to the United States in 1919, Sikorsky founded the
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in 1923, and developed the first of
Pan American Airways' ocean-conquering flying boats in the 1930s.
In 1939, Sikorsky designed and flew the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300, the
first viable American helicopter, which pioneered the rotor
configuration used by most helicopters today. Sikorsky modified the
design into the Sikorsky R-4, which became the world's first
mass-produced helicopter in 1942.
1 Early life
2 Aircraft designer
2.1 List of aircraft designed by Sikorsky
3 Life in the United States
5 Death and legacy
6 Philosophical and religious views
7 Published works
8 See also
10 External links
Igor Sikorsky was born in Kiev,
Russian Empire (in present-day
Ukraine), the youngest of five children. His father, Ivan Alexeevich
Sikorsky, was a professor of psychology of
Kiev St. Vladimir
University, a psychiatrist with an international reputation, and an
ardent Russian nationalist.
Igor Sikorsky was an Orthodox Christian. When questioned regarding
his roots, he would answer: "My family is of Russian origin. My
grandfather and other ancestors from the time of Peter the Great were
Russian Orthodox priests."
Sikorsky's mother, Mariya Stefanovna Sikorskaya (née
Temryuk-Cherkasova), was a physician who did not work
professionally. She is sometimes called Zinaida Sikorsky. While
homeschooling young Igor, she gave him a great love for art,
especially in the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci, and the stories
of Jules Verne. In 1900, at age 11, he accompanied his father to
Germany and through conversations with his father, became interested
in natural sciences. After returning home, Sikorsky began to
experiment with model flying machines, and by age 12, he had made a
small rubber band-powered helicopter.
Sikorsky began studying at the
Saint Petersburg Maritime Cadet Corps,
in 1903, at the age of 14. In 1906, he determined that his future lay
in engineering, so he resigned from the academy, despite his
satisfactory standing, and left the
Russian Empire to study in Paris.
He returned to the
Russian Empire in 1907, enrolling at the Mechanical
College of the
Kiev Polytechnic Institute. After the academic year,
Sikorsky again accompanied his father to Germany in the summer of
1908, where he learned of the accomplishments of the Wright brothers'
Flyer and Ferdinand von Zeppelin's dirigible. Sikorsky later said
about this event: "Within twenty-four hours, I decided to change my
life's work. I would study aviation."
By the start of
World War I
World War I in 1914, Sikorsky's airplane research and
production business in
Kiev was flourishing, and his factory made
bombers during the war. After the Bolshevik revolution began in 1917,
Igor Sikorsky fled his homeland, because the new government threatened
to shoot him. He moved to France where he was offered a contract
for the design of a new, more powerful Muromets-type plane. But in
November 1918 the war ended and the French government stopped
subsidizing military orders, he arrived in the U.S. a few months later
Igor Sikorsky in 1914
With financial backing from his sister Olga, Sikorsky returned to
Paris, the center of the aviation world at the time, in 1909. Sikorsky
met with aviation pioneers, to ask them questions about aircraft and
flying. In May 1909, he returned to Russia and began designing his
first helicopter, which he began testing in July 1909. Despite his
progress in solving technical problems of control, Sikorsky realized
that the aircraft would never fly. He finally disassembled the
aircraft in October 1909, after he determined that he could learn
nothing more from the design.
I had learned enough to recognize that with the existing state of the
art, engines, materials, and – most of all – the shortage of money
and lack of experience... I would not be able to produce a successful
helicopter at that time.
Sikorsky's first aircraft of his own design, the S-1 used a 15 hp
Anzani 3-cylinder fan engine
Anzani 3-cylinder fan engine in a pusher configuration, that could not
lift the aircraft. His second design called the S-2 was powered by a
25 hp Anzani engine in a tractor configuration and first flew on
June 3, 1910 at a height of a few feet. On June 30 after some
modifications, Sikorsky reached an altitude of "sixty or eighty feet"
before the S-2 stalled and was completely destroyed when it crashed in
a ravine. Later, Sikorsky built the two-seat S-5, his first
design not based on other European aircraft. Flying this original
aircraft, Sikorsky earned his pilot license; Fédération
Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) license No. 64 issued by the
Imperial Aero Club of Russia in 1911. During a demonstration of
the S-5, the engine quit and Sikorsky was forced to make a crash
landing to avoid a wall. It was discovered that a mosquito in the
gasoline had been drawn into the carburetor, starving the engine of
fuel. The close call convinced Sikorsky of the need for an aircraft
that could continue flying if it lost an engine. His next
aircraft, the S-6 held three passengers and was selected as the winner
of the Moscow aircraft exhibition held by the Russian Army in February
Sikorsky Bolshoi Baltisky of 1913, before receiving its pair of pusher
In early 1912,
Igor Sikorsky became Chief Engineer of the aircraft
division for the Russian Baltic Railroad Car Works (Russko-Baltiisky
Vagonny Zavod or R-BVZ) in Saint Petersburg. His work at R-BVZ
included the construction of the first four-engine aircraft, the S-21
Russky Vityaz, which he initially called Le Grand when fitted with
just two engines, then as the Bolshoi Baltisky (The Great Baltic) when
fitted with four engines for the first time, each wing panel's pair of
powerplants in a "push-pull" tandem configuration previous to the four
tractor-engined Russki Vityaz. He also served as the test pilot for
its first flight on May 13, 1913. In recognition for his
accomplishment, he was awarded an honorary degree in engineering from
Saint Petersburg Polytechnical Institute in 1914. Sikorsky took the
experience from building the Russky Vityaz to develop the S-22 Ilya
Muromets airliner. Due to outbreak of World War I, he redesigned it as
the world's first four-engined bomber, for which he was decorated with
the Order of St. Vladimir.
After World War I,
Igor Sikorsky briefly became an engineer for the
French forces in Russia, during the Russian Civil War. Seeing
little opportunity for himself as an aircraft designer in war-torn
Europe, and particularly Russia, ravaged by the
October Revolution and
Civil War, he immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York on
March 30, 1919.
List of aircraft designed by Sikorsky
Russian aviators Sikorsky, Genner and Kaulbars aboard a "Russky
Vityaz", c. 1913
S-6 – three-passenger plane – 1912
S-21 Russky Vityaz four-engine biplane – 1913
S-22 Ilya Muromets four-engine biplane – 1913
S-29 twin-engine biplane - 1924
S-42 Clipper – flying boat – 1934
VS-300 experimental prototype helicopter – 1939
VS-44 Excambian flying boat – 1942
R-4 world's first production helicopter – 1942
Life in the United States
Sikorsky S-42 flying boat
Sikorsky Skycrane carrying a house
In the U.S., Sikorsky first worked as a school teacher and a lecturer,
while looking for an opportunity to work in the aviation industry. In
1932, he joined the faculty of the
University of Rhode Island
University of Rhode Island to form
an aeronautical engineering program and remained with the university
until 1948. He also lectured at the University of Bridgeport.
In 1923, Sikorsky formed the Sikorsky Manufacturing Company in
Roosevelt, New York. He was helped by several former Russian
military officers. Among Sikorsky's chief supporters was composer
Sergei Rachmaninoff, who introduced himself by writing a check for
US$5,000 (approximately $61,000 in 2007). Although his prototype
was damaged in its first test flight, Sikorsky persuaded his reluctant
backers to invest another $2,500. With the additional funds, he
produced the S-29, one of the first twin-engine aircraft in America,
with a capacity for 14 passengers and a speed of 115 mph. The
performance of the S-29, slow compared to military aircraft of 1918,
proved to be a "make or break" moment for Sikorsky's funding.
In 1928, Sikorsky became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
The Sikorsky Manufacturing Company moved to
Stratford, Connecticut in
1929. It became a part of the United Aircraft and Transport
Corporation (now United Technologies Corporation) in July of that
year. The company manufactured flying boats, such as the S-42
"Clipper", used by Pan Am for transatlantic flights.
Meanwhile, Sikorsky also continued his earlier work on vertical flight
while living in Nichols, Connecticut. On February 14, 1929, he filed
an application to patent a "direct lift" amphibian aircraft which used
compressed air to power a direct lift "propeller" and two smaller
propellers for thrust. On June 27, 1931, Sikorsky filed for a
patent for another "direct lift aircraft", and was awarded patent No.
1,994,488 on March 19, 1935. His design plans eventually
culminated in the first (tethered) flight of the Vought-Sikorsky
VS-300 on September 14, 1939, with the first free flight occurring
eight months later on May 24, 1940. Sikorsky's success with the VS-300
led to the R-4, which became the world's first mass-produced
helicopter, in 1942. Sikorsky's final VS-300 rotor configuration,
comprising a single main rotor and a single antitorque tail rotor, has
proven to be one of the most popular helicopter configurations, being
used in most helicopters produced today.
Igor Sikorsky was also on the board of directors for the Tolstoy
Foundation Center in Valley Cottage, New York.
Sikorsky was married to Olga Fyodorovna Simkovitch in the Russian
Empire. They were divorced and Olga remained in Russia with their
daughter, Tania, as Sikorsky departed after the October Revolution. In
1923, Sikorsky's sisters immigrated to the US, bringing six-year-old
Tania with them. Sikorsky married Elisabeth Semion (1903–1995)
in 1924, in New York. Sikorsky and Elisabeth had four sons;
Sergei, Nikolai, Igor Jr. and George.
Tania Sikorsky von York (March 1, 1918 – September 22, 2008),
Sikorsky's eldest child and only daughter. Tania was born in Kiev,
Ukraine. Educated in the United States, she earned a B.A. at Barnard
College and a doctorate at Yale University. She was one of the
original faculty members of
Sacred Heart University
Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport,
Connecticut, where she served as Professor of Sociology for 20
Sergei Sikorsky (1925– ), Sikorsky's eldest son. He joined
United Technologies in 1951, and retired in 1992, as Vice-President of
Special Projects at Sikorsky Aircraft.
Igor Sikorsky Jr. is an attorney, businessman and aviation
Igor Sikorsky III is also a pilot.
Death and legacy
The Sikorsky's family house in Kiev's historical center, October 2009
Sikorsky died at his home in Easton, Connecticut, on October 26, 1972,
and is buried in Saint John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cemetery
located on Nichols Avenue in Stratford.
The Sikorsky Memorial Bridge, which carries the
Merritt Parkway across
Housatonic River next to the Sikorsky corporate headquarters, is
named for him. Sikorsky has been designated a Connecticut Aviation
Pioneer by the Connecticut State Legislature. The Sikorsky Aircraft
Corporation in Stratford, Connecticut, continues to the present day as
one of the world's leading helicopter manufacturers, and a nearby
small airport has been named Sikorsky Memorial Airport.
Sikorsky was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the
Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1987.
In October 2011, one of the streets in
Kiev was renamed after
Sikorsky. The decision was made by the City Council at the request of
the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, which opened its new office on that
street. The Sikorsky's family house in the city's historical
center is preserved to this day but is in a neglected condition
In November 2012, one of the Russian supersonic heavy strategic bomber
Tu-160, based at the
Engels-2 Air Force Base, was named for Igor
Sikorsky, which caused controversy among air base crew members. One of
the officers said that
Igor Sikorsky does not deserve it because he
laid the foundations of the U.S., rather than Russian aviation.
Long Range Aviation
Long Range Aviation command officer said that Igor
Sikorsky is not responsible for the activities of his military
aircraft. In 2013, Flying magazine ranked Sikorsky number 12
on its list of the 51 Heroes of Aviation.
On 22 March 2018 the
Kiev city council officially renamed
International Airport "Kyiv" (Zhulyany) named after Igor Sikorsky.
Philosophical and religious views
Sikorsky was a deeply religious Russian Orthodox Christian and
authored two religious and philosophical books (The Message of the
Lord's Prayer and The Invisible Encounter). Summarizing his beliefs,
in the latter he wrote:
Our concerns sink into insignificance when compared with the eternal
value of human personality – a potential child of God which is
destined to triumph over life, pain, and death. No one can take this
sublime meaning of life away from us, and this is the one thing that
Sikorsky, Igor Ivan. The Message of the Lord's Prayer. New York: C.
Scribner's sons, 1942. OCLC 2928920
Sikorsky, Igor Ivan. The Invisible Encounter. New York: C. Scribner's
Sons, 1947. OCLC 1446225
Sikorsky, Igor Ivan. The Story of the Winged-S: Late Developments and
Recent Photographs of the Helicopter, an Autobiography. New York:
Dodd, Mead, 1967. OCLC 1396277
Aerosani – Sikorsky built some of these propeller-powered
snowmobiles in 1909–10
Fedor Ivanovich Bylinkin – an early aircraft collaborator with
Sikorsky, in 1910
Sikorsky Prize – a prize for human powered helicopters named in his
10090 Sikorsky – an asteroid named in honor of Igor Sikorsky
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Igor Sikorsky.
Igor's office at Stratford
Official Sikorsky historical archives
Igor Sikorsky Aerial Russia – the Romance of the Giant Aeroplane –
early days of
Igor Sikorsky online book
Igor Sikorsky article on ctheritage.org
Igor Sikorsky. Time magazine, November 16, 1953. (Cover)
The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, has
extensive Sikorsky exhibits
Igor Sikorsky at Everything2.com
Transatlantic Re-enactment Flight
Helicopter Flies Straight Up September 1940 Popular Mechanics
article showing Sikorsky flying his first helicopter and introducing
him to the general public
U.S. Patent 1,848,389 : "Aircraft, especially aircraft of the
direct lift amphibian type and means of construction and operating the
U.S. Patent 1,994,488
U.S. Patent 2,318,259
U.S. Patent 2,318,260
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
United Technologies Corporation
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1964: Charles S. Draper
1965: Hugh L. Dryden
Clarence L. Johnson
Warren K. Lewis
1966: Claude E. Shannon
1967: Edwin H. Land
Igor I. Sikorsky
1968: J. Presper Eckert
Nathan M. Newmark
1969: Jack St. Clair Kilby
1970: George E. Mueller
1973: Harold E. Edgerton
Richard T. Whitcomb
1974: Rudolf Kompfner
Ralph Brazelton Peck
1975: Manson Benedict
William Hayward Pickering
Frederick E. Terman
Wernher von Braun
1976: Morris Cohen
Peter C. Goldmark
Erwin Wilhelm Müller
1979: Emmett N. Leith
Raymond D. Mindlin
Robert N. Noyce
Earl R. Parker
1982: Edward H. Heinemann
Donald L. Katz
1983: William Redington Hewlett
George M. Low
John G. Trump
1986: Hans Wolfgang Liepmann
T. Y. Lin
Bernard M. Oliver
1987: R. Byron Bird
H. Bolton Seed
1988: Daniel C. Drucker
Willis M. Hawkins
George W. Housner
1989: Harry George Drickamer
Herbert E. Grier
1990: Mildred Dresselhaus
Nick Holonyak Jr.
1991: George H. Heilmeier
Luna B. Leopold
H. Guyford Stever
1992: Calvin F. Quate
John Roy Whinnery
1993: Alfred Y. Cho
1994: Ray W. Clough
1995: Hermann A. Haus
1996: James L. Flanagan
C. Kumar N. Patel
1998: Eli Ruckenstein
1999: Kenneth N. Stevens
2000: Yuan-Cheng B. Fung
2001: Andreas Acrivos
2002: Leo Beranek
2003: John M. Prausnitz
2004: Edwin N. Lightfoot
2005: Jan D. Achenbach
Tobin J. Marks
2006: Robert S. Langer
2007: David J. Wineland
2008: Rudolf E. Kálmán
2009: Amnon Yariv
2010: Shu Chien
2011: John B. Goodenough
2014: Thomas Kailath
Mathematical, statistical, and computer sciences
1963: Norbert Wiener
1964: Solomon Lefschetz
H. Marston Morse
1965: Oscar Zariski
1966: John Milnor
1967: Paul Cohen
1968: Jerzy Neyman
1969: William Feller
1970: Richard Brauer
1973: John Tukey
1974: Kurt Gödel
1975: John W. Backus
1976: Kurt Otto Friedrichs
1979: Joseph L. Doob
Donald E. Knuth
1982: Marshall Harvey Stone
1983: Herman Goldstine
1986: Peter Lax
1987: Raoul Bott
1988: Ralph E. Gomory
Joseph B. Keller
1989: Samuel Karlin
Saunders Mac Lane
Donald C. Spencer
1990: George F. Carrier
Stephen Cole Kleene
1991: Alberto Calderón
1992: Allen Newell
1993: Martin David Kruskal
1994: John Cocke
1995: Louis Nirenberg
1996: Richard Karp
1997: Shing-Tung Yau
1998: Cathleen Synge Morawetz
1999: Felix Browder
Ronald R. Coifman
2000: John Griggs Thompson
Karen K. Uhlenbeck
2001: Calyampudi R. Rao
Elias M. Stein
2002: James G. Glimm
2003: Carl R. de Boor
2004: Dennis P. Sullivan
2005: Bradley Efron
2006: Hyman Bass
2007: Leonard Kleinrock
Andrew J. Viterbi
2009: David B. Mumford
2010: Richard A. Tapia
S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan
2011: Solomon W. Golomb
2014: Alexandre Chorin
2015: Michael Artin
1963: Luis W. Alvarez
1964: Julian Schwinger
Harold Clayton Urey
Robert Burns Woodward
1965: John Bardeen
Leon M. Lederman
1966: Jacob Bjerknes
John H. Van Vleck
Vladimir K. Zworykin
1967: Jesse Beams
1968: Paul Bartlett
1969: Herbert C. Brown
1970: Robert H. Dicke
Allan R. Sandage
John C. Slater
John A. Wheeler
1973: Carl Djerassi
Arie Jan Haagen-Smit
Robert Rathbun Wilson
1974: Nicolaas Bloembergen
William Alfred Fowler
Linus Carl Pauling
Kenneth Sanborn Pitzer
1975: Hans A. Bethe
Joseph O. Hirschfelder
Edgar Bright Wilson
1976: Samuel Goudsmit
Herbert S. Gutowsky
1979: Richard P. Feynman
Edward M. Purcell
Victor F. Weisskopf
1982: Philip W. Anderson
Charles H. Townes
1983: E. Margaret Burbidge
Bruno B. Rossi
J. Robert Schrieffer
1986: Solomon J. Buchsbaum
H. Richard Crane
1987: Philip Abelson
Paul C. Lauterbur
James A. Van Allen
1988: D. Allan Bromley
Paul Ching-Wu Chu
Norman F. Ramsey
1989: Arnold O. Beckman
1990: Allan M. Cormack
Edwin M. McMillan
1991: Arthur L. Schawlow
1992: Eugene M. Shoemaker
1993: Val Fitch
1994: Albert Overhauser
1995: Hans Dehmelt
1996: Wallace S. Broecker
1997: Marshall Rosenbluth
1998: Don L. Anderson
John N. Bahcall
1999: James Cronin
2000: Willis E. Lamb
Jeremiah P. Ostriker
Gilbert F. White
2001: Marvin L. Cohen
Raymond Davis Jr.
2002: Richard Garwin
W. Jason Morgan
2003: G. Brent Dalrymple
2004: Robert N. Clayton
2005: Ralph A. Alpher
2006: Daniel Kleppner
2007: Fay Ajzenberg-Selove
Charles P. Slichter
2008: Berni Alder
James E. Gunn
2009: Yakir Aharonov
Esther M. Conwell
Warren M. Washington
2011: Sidney Drell
Sylvester James Gates
2014: Burton Richter
Sean C. Solomon
2015: Shirley Ann Jackson
1921: Hjalmar G. Carlson
1922: Frederick A. Halsey
1923: John R. Freeman
1926: Robert Andrews Millikan
1927: Wilfred Lewis
1928: Julian Kennedy
1930: W. L. R. Emmet
1931: Albert Kingsbury
1933: Ambrose Swasey
1934: Willis Carrier
1935: Charles T. Main
1936: Edward Bausch
1937: Edward P. Bullard Jr.
1938: Stephen J. Pigott
1939: James E. Gleason
1940: Charles F. Kettering
1941: Theodore von Karman
1942: Ervin G. Bailey
1943: Lewis K. Sillcox
1944: Edward G. Budd
1945: William F. Durand
1946: Morris E. Leeds
1947: Paul W. Kiefer
1948: Frederick G. Keyes
1949: Fred L. Dornbrook
1950: Harvey C. Knowles
1951: Glenn B. Warren
1952: Nevin E. Funk
1953: Crosby Field
1954: E. Burnley Powell
1955: Granville M. Read
1956: Harry F. Vickers
1957: Llewellyn M. K. Boelter
1958: Wilbur H. Armacost
1959: Martin Frisch
1960: C. Richard Soderberg
1962: Philip Sporn
1963: Igor I. Sikorsky
1964: Alan Howard
1965: Jan Burgers
1967: Mayo D. Hersey
1968: Samuel C. Collins
1969: Lloyd H. Donnell
1970: Robert R. Gilruth
1971: Horace Smart Beattie
1972: Waloddi Weibull
1973: Christopher C. Kraft Jr.
1974: Nicholas J. Hoff
1975: Maxime A. Faget
1976: Raymond D. Mindlin
1977: Robert W. Mann
1979: Jacob P. Den Hartog
1980: Soichiro Honda
1981: Robert S. Hahn
1983: Jack N. Binns Sr.
1984: Aaron Cohen
1985: Milton C. Shaw
1986: Orlan W. Boston
1987: Philip G. Hodge
1988: Eric Reissner
1989: William R. Sears
1990: Harley A. Wilhelm
1992: Daniel C. Drucker
1993: Richard H. Gallagher
1996: Robert C. Dean Jr.
1997: Bernard Budiansky
1998: Frank Kreith
1999: H. Norman Abramson
2000: Arther E. Bergles
2001: Warren M. Rohsenow
2002: Leroy S. Fletcher
2003: Norman R. Augustine
2004: Bradford W. Parkinson
2005: Robert E. Uhrig
2006: Richard J. Goldstein
2007: Dean L. Kamen
2008: Frank E. Talke
2009: Nam Pyo Suh
2010: John Abele
2011: Clayton Daniel Mote Jr.
2012: Jan D. Achenbach
2013: Siavouche Nemat-Nasser
2014: Van C. Mow
2015: James R. Rice
2016: J. N. Reddy
ISNI: 0000 0000 7357 7071
BNF: cb10981542x (data)