Sometimes it’s the personal touch that makes the difference. Sergei Sikorsky, retired vice president of special products for Sikorsky Helicopters (Booth No. 2822) and son of the company’s namesake, Igor Sikorsky, presented an informative history of the search-and-rescue pedigree of vertical lift aircraft during Heli-Expo 2014.
“In December 1938 Igor Sikorsky presented the case to United Aircraft to develop the helicopter,” said Sikorsky. “He told United that, when developed, the helicopter would prove to be a unique instrument for saving human lives,” he continued.
Just six years later, in 1944 in the deep jungle of Burma, a 24-year-old pilot, Lt. Carter Harmon, flew the first SAR mission in an R-4 to successfully rescue survivors of a medevac aircraft that had gone down in the jungle behind enemy lines.
Sikorsky Aircraft put an S-55 helicopter on the FDR aircraft carrier at the company’s own cost to prove the utility of the carrier-based helicopter. It didn’t take long until a pilot “bounced” off the deck and was quickly rescued by the S-55. “The captain stated that he would not sail again without two of the S-55 onboard his carrier,” said Sikorsky.
The final screen of his presentation was perhaps the most telling about Sikorsky’s personal involvement with his father’s dream. It showed Cdr. Frank Erickson flight testing the first helicopter rescue hoist. Dangling below the helicopter on the cable, being hoisted, is Airman Machinist Mate Sergei Sikorsky. “It worked,” he smiled.