Sikorsky XR-5 (Library of Congress)
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Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky

Igor Sikorsky, scientist, engineer, pilot and businessman, was a pioneer in aircraft design who is best known for his successful development of the helicopter. Sikorsky was fascinated with flight even as a child in Russia, and a 1908 meeting with the Wright brothers determined the course of his life in aviation. After two early helicopter designs failed, Sikorsky turned his attention to fixed-wing aircraft. By 1913 he had developed the Il’ya Muromets, four-engine passenger aircraft that were converted to bombers for use in WWI. The Bolshevik Revolution forced Sikorsky and his family to emigrate to America in 1919 where he established the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation in New York. Over the next 20 years, Sikorsky’s company built passenger planes and flying boats, including the S-40 American Clipper that was used to open new air routes across the Pacific. In the 1930s Sikorsky turned his attention again to helicopter design and on September 14, 1939, Sikorsky himself flew the VS-300 on its first test flight. Igor Sikorsky, shown here in the greenhouse nose of his 1943 XR-5, died on October 26, 1972.