When you research the early years of helicopter development, it doesn’t take long for Igor Sikorsky to come up. Not only is he credited for inventing the first helicopter, but he is also known as being a visionary regarding the possibilities that existed for early aviation. While other people were merely trying to get an aircraft to lift off of the ground, Sikorsky was already thinking about how people could use air travel for a faster form of transportation. We love how his work enabled us to bring the best helicopter tour of New York City today. We also thought that you would enjoy the history behind the man who made it all possible.
Working On an Early Dream
Sikorsky was born in Kiev, Russia in 1889 and at a young age he developed an interest in aviation. According to historians, he first began to experiment with his ideas regarding vertical flight at the age of 11. Also, at this age he played with helicopter toys and dreamed of building an aircraft that people could use as a luxury form of transportation. As he matured, Sikorsky went on to study in Paris and completed his education at the Mechanical Engineering College of the Polytechnic Institute in Kiev. While he originally anticipated to establish a career in engineering, his discovery of the Wright Brothers work changed his path. This is when he decided to focus solely on aviation.
Waiting for Technology to Catch Up
In 1909, Sikorsky began to work on designing a single rotor aircraft that was capable of vertical flight. While he was able to work out the issues he found with the design, he was never able to find an engine that was light enough to allow it to fully lift off of the ground. Once Sikorsky realized that technology was not ready for his ideas yet, he shifted his focus to working on traditional airplanes. In 1913, he piloted the first successful four-engine aircraft flight that also earned him an honorary degree from St. Petersburg Polytechnical Institute.
Achieving the Goal of Vertical Helicopter Flight
In 1919, Sikorsky immigrated to the United States to escape the unrest in Russia. Once there, he continued to teach and work on the development of planes until he finally returned to his dream of working on vertical flight designs. After years of hard work and designing, Sikorsky introduced the world’s first recognized helicopter in 1939, the VS-300. It’s first flight was piloted by Sikorsky himself and although it was tethered, it managed to stay in the air for several seconds. By 1942, Sikorsky’s first helicopter was ready for mass production and his designs have served as the basis for military and passenger helicopters that we still use today.
When NYC residents choose to take a convenient private helicopter tour, it is easy to forget that the opportunity to travel in luxury can all be traced back to the early visions of Sikorsky who refused to give up on his dream. While it may have taken decades for technology to catch up to his ideas for air travel, his tenacity brought us the ability to enjoy the benefits of vertical flight.