Igor I. Sikorsky
National Medal of Science
For pioneering in the development of multi-engined aircraft, both land and sea planes, and for developing the helicopter as a useful and important device of aerial transportation.
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BirthMay 25, 1889
Country of BirthUkraine
Key ContributionsMulti-Engine Airplanes
Development Of First Viable American Helicopter
Awarded byLyndon Baines Johnson
EducationKiev Polytechnic Institute
Areas of ImpactTransportation
AffiliationsUnited Aircraft Corporation
Other PrizesNational Inventors Hall of Fame
During the Russian Revolution, aeronautical engineer Igor Sikorsky fled to America after learning he was on a hit list. In 1919, unable to find a job in aviation, he taught math and science to other Russian immigrants before leveraging his can-do spirit to form his own company, Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corp., several years later.
The firm, located on a friend’s chicken farm in Long Island, created the S-29A, a twin-engine biplane first flown in 1924. By 1939, Sikorsky prepared to give the world something they had never seen before: a large metal bird that could fly up and down or hover.
The VS-300 became the first practical helicopter, earning Sikorsky a contract with the U.S. Army for a vehicle that became the standard for emergency, life-saving field transportation. “If you are in trouble anywhere in the world, an airplane can fly over and drop flowers,” he said, “but a helicopter can land and save your life.”