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Sikorsky, Igor Ivanovich

Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky 1889-1972 Today remembered as the father of the helicopter, Igor Sikorsky had three distinct aviation careers. During the birth of aviation, Sikorsky designed and constructed the first successful large four-engine airplanes. After immigrating to America following the Russian revolution, Sikorsky's company built large flying boats for long-range airline service. Not until 1938 did Sikorsky embark on the third of his aviation careers, beginning design work on the helicopters for which he became famous.

Igor was born in the Russian (now Ukrainian) city of Kiev, one of five children. His father taught psychology at the university and established a successful private practice. Igor's mother was also well educated. In one of Igor's earliest memories, his mother described Leonardo da Vinci's (1452-1519) designs for helicopter-like flying machines. Sikorsky spent three years studying at the Imperial Russian Naval Academy, then resigned in 1906 to pursue engineering. While visiting Germany in 1908, Sikorsky read his first account of the Wright brothers' flight. Recognizing his fascination, his older sister Olga offered Igor, then just 19, enough money to purchase an engine and some building materials. But the heavy engines of the time rendered his attempts to build a helicopter hopeless. Always persistent in the face of difficulties, Sikorsky instead designed an airplane and awaited the day when technological developments would make his helicopter dreams possible.

Sikorsky's success with airplanes was remarkable. In less than two years, by 1911, one of his planes set a world speed record. The planes were still frail, though. In one case, Sikorsky crash-landed after a mosquito was caught in his fuel tank and clogged the carburetor. But aviation progressed quickly. In 1913 Sikorsky constructed the first four-engine planes in the world. During World War I these massive planes became the first heavy bombers. Though the army initially found them almost useless, by 1917 the planes were quite successful. Several times they fought off attacks by five or more German fighter planes. No longer did mere mosquitoes' endanger Sikorsky's aircraft. However, the Russian Revolution in 1917 ended Sikorsky's first career in aviation, forcing him to flee Russia for his own safety.

By March 1919 Sikorsky had arrived in New York City, ready to resume work in aviation. The end of the war led to hard times for an aircraft designer. While earning a meager living teaching math to other Russian immigrants, Sikorsky met Elizabeth Semion, and they were married in 1924. By 1923 Sikorsky was back on his wings, and 1928 marked the return of Sikorsky's success, as he became a United States citizen and sold the first of his flying boats to Pan American Airways. These designs culminated in the large "Clipper" planes that introduced long-range commercial air travel in the 1930s. However, again social turmoil over-came the technical innovations of Sikorsky's designs. By 1938 the Great Depression had dried up the market for large luxury flying boats, thus ending Sikorsky's second aviation career.

Fortunately, Sikorsky managed to keep his crack engineering team together as he entered his third aviation career, returning to his life-long dream: building a practical helicopter. By late 1939 the prototype VS-300 was flying. An infusion of military support led to the creation of the R-4, the world's first mass-produced helicopter. Though helicopters played little role in World War II, they were rapidly adapted to military, civilian, and industrial uses after the war. In 1950 Sikorsky accepted the Collier Trophy, one of aviation's highest awards, on behalf of the helicopter industry he had founded. Igor Sikorsky retired in 1957 but remained active as a spokesman for the helicopter industry. He died in 1972 in Easton, Connecticut


Sukhoy - officially OKB imeni P.O. Sukhogo also called OKB Sukhoy formerly OKB-51 Russian aerospace design bureau that is the country's second most important producer of jet fighters (after the design bureau MiG). Sukhoy is part of a giant, partiallystate-owned conglomerate of design bureaus and production plants known as AVPK Sukhoy (Aviation Military-Industrial Complex Sukhoy). Headquarters are in Moscow.

The Sukhoy design bureau has three institutional components—the actual bureau, an experimental plant, and a flight-testing station. It has production affiliates at Novosibirsk, Ulan-Ude, Komsomolsk-na-Amure, Dubna, Irkutsk, and Tbilisi, Georgia. Since its origin at the start of World War II, Sukhoy has designed about 100 different aircraft, of which about 50 types have been put into series production. Most of its fighter sales are to Russia, but it also supplies aircraft to other countries including India, China, and Vietnam. At the start of the 21st century Sukhoy began diversifying into the civilian market with the development of sports aircraft, freight vehicles, and passenger aircraft.

The history of the company is closely associated with the career of the noted Soviet aircraft designer Pavel O. Sukhoy. In the 1920s and '30s, as a senior engineer working for Andrey N. Tupolev's Moscow-based design group of the Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI; see Tupolev), Sukhoy designed several bombers and fighters. In September 1939 the Soviet government appointed Sukhoy to head a new experimental design bureau (OKB) at a plant in Kharkov (now Kharkiv, Ukraine), where he designed the Su-6 ground-attack aircraft. Although he produced several excellent designs during the 1930s and '40s, a combination of bad luck, unfavourable wartime government decisions, and internal politics dogged his creations throughout this phase of his career. At the end of World War II the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin assigned him to create a new-generationjet fighter, but because of safety concerns, technical delays, and Stalin's perception that the design was too derivative of the German Me 262, Sukhoy's Su-9 and its subsequent modifications were never adopted for production. Stalin eventually closed his design bureau in November 1949, and Sukhoy's team became a subdivision of the Tupolev design bureau in Moscow.

After Stalin's death in 1953, the Soviet government permitted Sukhoy to regroup his old team as an independent design bureau, first at Plant 1 in Kuybyshev (now Samara) in early 1953 and then at Plant 51 in Moscow later in the year. In 1954 his organization was renamed OKB-51, becoming the foundation of the present-day firm. In the 1950s and '60s the design bureau planned and built a series of new supersonic jet fighters, including the swept-wing Su-7 and delta-wing Su-9 (the latter a different aircraft from the Su-9 of the 1940s). These two aircraft were extensively modified over the years and used in vast numbers by the air forces of the U.S.S.R. and other Warsaw Pact countries. Like other Soviet aviation designers, Sukhoy embraced the concept of incremental development rather than large technological leaps in aircraft design. For example, he improved the Su-9 series into the Su-11 and Su-15 fighter-interceptor series for service with the Soviet air defense forces.

Shortly after Sukoy's death in 1975, his name was added in posthumous recognition to that of the design bureau, which became commonly known as OKB Sukhoy. In the 1970s and early '80s the design bureau produced the high-performance, variable-wing Su-24 multirole aircraft and the Su-25 close-support aircraft. Perhaps the best known Sukhoy design was the Su-27, a long-range, air-superiority fighter recognized for its versatility and overall capabilities. First flown in 1977 and introduced in the mid-1980s, the Su-27 set numerous world records for altitude and takeoff speed and became the forerunner of an entire family of aircraft during the next two decades.

In the 1990s Sukhoy introduced a number of new aircraft. Its Su-34 fighter-bomber began replacing the Su-24, while the redesigned Su-39 ground-attack aircraft began substituting for its older Su-25 variant. Its fifth-generation, multirole, all-weather S-37 Berkut air-superiority fighter, first flown in 1997, was equipped with state-of-the-art electronics, forward-swept wings, and thrust vector control. In competition with MiG for the international market, Sukhoy also continued to develop the lightweight Su-54 fighter. In 1997 the Russian government formed AVPK Sukhoy by combining OKB Sukhoy with its production plant and several other affiliates as part of a general restructuring. Subsequently Sukhoy endured a period of turmoil and internal strife, which included the firing of its top-level leadership.

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