Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky was a Russian-American aviation pioneer in both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. First success came with the S-2, the second fixedwing plane 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 Petrograd.
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.
With financial backing from his sister Olga, At the time, Paris was the center of the aviation world. 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 engine, that could not lift the aircraft. His second 25 hp Anzani model S-2 flew on June 16, 1910 at a height of a few feet. 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 1912.
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.