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September 29, 2023

Historical Photos of Igor Sikorsky With His VS-300, the First Successful Helicopter

The VS-300 helicopter, created and flown by Russian-American Igor Sikorsky, was first demonstrated on May 24, 1940 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. As the first American single main rotor helicopter, it rose 15-20 feet above the ground and traveled 200 feet forward before hovering, backing up, and landing. Its original design and subsequent improvements can be seen in most modern helicopters.

After years of experimenting in aviation, Sikorsky submitted a patent for his “direct lift aircraft” design in 1931, which he received in 1935 (patent 1,994,488). Four year later, the VS-300 made its first tethered flight on September 14, 1939, before achieving free flight in 1940. Also that year, Sikorsky was awarded Connecticut helicopter license No. 1.

As the aircraft continued to improve, Sikorsky performed a water landing and takeoff, and broke the world endurance record by staying aloft for 1 hour, 32 minutes, and 26.1 seconds, both in 1941.

Originally, three auxiliary tail rotors were used to control the VS-300 and for compensation of the torque of the main rotor. By moving the control stick forward and backward, the pitch on the two horizontal auxiliary rotors would change simultaneously in the same direction. Rudder action was achieved by foot pedals connected to the pitch control of the vertical auxiliary rotor. These three auxiliary rotors rotated approximately four times as fast as the main rotor. With this design, the VS-300 could hover, and fly sideward and backward, but experienced pitching problems when moving forward at low speeds.

The fourth and final rotor configuration of the VS-300 design included a single main lifting rotor with full cyclic-pitch for both roll and pitch control and a single tail rotor for both directional control and anti-torque, which is seen on most helicopters produced today.

In 1943, the VS-300 was retired and donated to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. Sikorsky flew it there himself on October 7, 1943.

The success of the experimental VS-300 led to the R-4, which became the world’s first mass-produced helicopter in 1942. A prototype was flown to an Army Air Forces base in Dayton, Ohio from Connecticut, which was the first cross-country flight of a helicopter in the US. This model was also used in service by the US Navy, US Coast Guard, and British Royal Navy. The Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter is still used by the military today.

(via EDN)


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