​Almanac: Father of the helicopter

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: May 25th, 1889, 125 years ago today . . . the day the future of aviation got a vertical lift.

For that was the day Igor Sikorsky was born in the city of Kiev, then a part of Russia.

As a boy, Sikorsky fell in love with the idea of flight, and dreamed of making good on Leonardo Da Vinci's 16th-century design for a rotary wing aircraft.

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Sovfoto, UIG via Getty Images
By age 20, he had built his first primitive helicopter (left): "A failure," he would say, "to the extent that it could not fly."

Undeterred, he became a pilot and aeronautical engineer, designing the world's first four-engine aircraft in 1913 while still in his early twenties.

In 1919, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Sikorsky arrived in the United States, where he founded his own aircraft company, and pioneered a number of designs.

In partnership with Charles Lindbergh, Sikorsky helped develop Pan American Airways' overseas routes, producing early models of the Pan Am Clipper, the flying boat that heralded a glamorous new era of air transportation.

Through it all, Sikorsky never lost sight of the dream of vertical flight, and in 1940 he piloted the VS-300, the first airworthy one-man helicopter . . . though hardly the last.

From that initial flight, Sikorsky grew to become the largest helicopter manufacturer in the world.

And though Igor Sikorsky died in 1972 at the age of 83, his company goes on, producing among other models the familiar Blackhawk helicopter for the U.S. military.

And earlier this month, Sikorsky won a more than $1 billion contract to build a new fleet of Marine One helicopters to serve the president.

A very long leap from Leonardo.


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