Ukrainian, who created the first helicopters in the world, which were in service with the US army and transported American presidents

In the 17th century, the most famous man of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, designed a machine that could fly vertically into the air. After the inventor’s death, scientists puzzled over his drawings for 500 years. But nobody managed to realise them until Ihor Sikorskyi was born (Kyiv, 1889), who was destined to realise da Vinci’s dream.

At 12, Ihor Sikorskyi made his first small helicopter, which flew into the air. At that time, he was already studying in the best Kyiv gymnasium. Subsequently, the young inventor continued his education in the Marine Cadet Corps. There he decided to become an aircraft designer. That is why in 1906, Sikorskyi returned to Kyiv and entered the Polytechnic Institute there.

In the summer of 1908, the future inventor went to rest in the Bavarian Alps with his father. At that time, German newspapers were filled with reports about the flights of the Wright brothers and the successful tests of the Graf Zeppelin airship. At the same time, in a small room of a German hotel, Ihor Sikorskyi managed to assemble a fairly heavy helicopter model that could rise several centimetres. After returning home, the Kyiv engineer recreated this version of the helicopter model. He believed he could build a real helicopter if he used more powerful engines.

However, in December 1908, his plans changed radically when his sister Olha unexpectedly took an interest in his research and provided enough funds to purchase the engine and parts needed to build the helicopter. So, in 1908–1911, Sikorskyi built his first two simplest coaxial helicopters without rotary machines. They were shown at a two-day air show in Kyiv in November of the same year. But none of them took off with the pilot.


Despite the difficulties, Sikorskyi and his colleagues created BiS-1 and BiS-2 aeroplanes and aerosanis (a type of propeller-driven snowmobile – ed.), which enjoyed success during the Kyiv sports holidays. The inventor begins to develop his theory of aircraft construction. Later, he received an invitation to the position of chief designer of the aviation department of the Russian-Baltic Transport Plant. Ihor Sikorskyi equipped his planes with several engines, increasing power, reliability and operational safety. Multi-engine aircraft ‘Russky Vityaz’ appeared. In June 1914, Sikorskyi and his crew made a record flight from St. Petersburg to Kyiv and back to St. Petersburg.

Photo: ‘Time’ magazine

During the First World War, the Russian Imperial Army was equipped with Sikorskyi aircraft, and then the Bolsheviks came and completely stopped the development of the aviation industry. The only way out, to avoid falling into the hands of the Bolsheviks, was to emigrate first to France and then to America.

Ihor Sikorskyi began the development of passenger and cargo aircraft. In 1923, he founded the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation. The outstanding Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff provided the financial assistance that Sikorskyi needed at the time. He bought the company’s stock for $5,000 and agreed to serve as vice president to promote the company, making purchasing the necessary materials and parts possible.

In 1924, the first American Sikorskyi S-29A aircraft was released. It can carry 1,900 kg of cargo and take off from a small platform. On June 27, 1931, Ukrainian inventor Ihor Sikorsky received a patent for the invention of the first helicopter in the United States. Already in September 1939, the aircraft took off.


The last work of Ihor Sikorskyi was the S-58 helicopter developed in 1954–1955, which was used in 50 countries worldwide – both for military and civil aviation.

In the Soviet Union, the name of the Ukrainian who changed the world, Ihor Sikorskyi, was ‘banned’ for publication. That is why the mass media in Ukraine began to write materials about the Ukrainian inventor only after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And already in March 2018, Kyiv International Airport was named after Ihor Sikorskyi. Commenting on the event, the designer’s son Serhii Sikorskyi noted: ‘I remember it very clearly: my father was proud that he was born in Kyiv, and he emphasised it more than once.’

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