A Brief History of the Sikorsky R-4: The First Mass-Produced Helicopter

A Brief History of the Sikorsky R-4: The First Mass-Produced Helicopter

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The Sikorsky was designed by the Russian-American Igor Sikorsky (as in Sikorsky helicopters, one of the most famous helicopter manufacturers to ever exist). It was a simple two-seated helicopter with three blades and one engine. The Sikorsky R-4 has been considered the world’s first mass-produced helicopter.

Many different countries used the Sikorsky R-4. The United States, in particular, was found of the helicopter, using it in the United States Army Air Forces, the United States Navy, and the United States Coast Guard. The United Kingdom used the helicopter as well in the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.

The Beginning – Sikorsky R-4

Igor Sikorsky invented the VS-300 helicopter in 1940.

The Sikorsky R-4‘s first flight was on January 14, 1942. Shortly after its first flight, the United States Army welcomed the helicopter on board on May 30, 1942. After this, the R-4 went on to beat previous helicopter records such as for endurance, altitude, and airspeed. The helicopter flew 761 miles from Connecticut to Ohio and an altitude of 12,000 feet and an airspeed of 140 miles per hour. At this time, it also completed a milestone of 100 flight hours without any major incident (remember this was still a time period were helicopters were a new advancement in the realm of aviation).

By January 5, 1943, the Air Force ordered 29 prototypes of the helicopter.

The helicopter only had a brief production run from 1942-1944. A total of 131 were built in this time period.

Specifics of the R-4

The helicopter is 33 feet and 8 inches long with a height of 12 feet and 5 inches. It has an empty weight of 2,098 pounds and a loaded weight of 2,581 pounds. Additionally, it has a cruising speed of 65 miles per hour.

Uses of the R-4

The Sikorsky R-4 has performed a variety of different missions including emergency services, helicopter search and rescue missions, and part transportation.

In January 1944, an Sikorsky R-4 delivered blood plasma to the USS Turner that proved to be life-saving.

In April 1944, the helicopter performed the first search and rescue for combat. A pilot and three British soldiers were rescued. Between January 22-23 in 1945, an Sikorsky R-4 performed high-altitude rescue as well.

The Sikorsky R-4 also transported parts for ships in need of repair for the Aviation Repair Units in the South Pacific. When the two R-4s were not used for ship repair parts they were used for medical evacuation.

The Sikorsky R-4 paved the way in helicopter mass production and many helicopters produced after stemmed from the production of the R-4.

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