His Aviation Legacy Is So Much More Than the Helicopter

March 5, 1923

Aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky established the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation on Long Island, thereby opening a new and significant chapter in aircraft development. Igor Sikorsky immigrated to the United States from his native Russia in 1919 with comparatively little money and no job, but a strong interest and ability when it came to aviation.

Several like-minded individuals urged Sikorsky to start his own aviation company. He did so, thanks in large part to the various means of support provided by other Russian expatriates. The Long Island location for his company, for example, was part of the chicken farm of a fellow immigrant (and former Russian Navy pilot) named Victor Utgoff.  Another big supporter and fellow immigrant was the noted composer, conductor, and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff, who gave Sikorsky $5,000 to help rent a wooden hangar at Roosevelt Field on Long Island for aviation efforts. In addition, a number of those working for Sikorsky at the farm – laboring away despite the less-than-ideal conditions and helping him raid area junkyards for aircraft parts – were also Russian immigrants.

A Sikorsky S-29A.

The company’s first aircraft was the S-29A. This airplane, measuring 49 feet and 10 inches (15.2 meters) in length and having a wingspan of 69 feet (21 meters), was the largest one built in the United States up to that time. Sikorsky’s other major airborne achievements would include flying “Clippers” that helped pioneer trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific commercial passenger services and – in what is the best-known and most renowned part of his legacy – the first successful North American helicopter. His company exists today as the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, Connecticut.

For more information on Igor Sikorsky, please check out https://www.sikorskyarchives.com/Igor_Sikorsky.php.

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