Back Vought-Sikorsky VS-300

Vought-Sikorsky VS-300

Russian-born Igor Sikorsky built his first helicopter, powered by a 25hp Anzani engine, in 1909. It would not leave the ground, and a second machine, completed in 1910, was little better; it did rise a short distance, but was incapable of lifting a pilot, and Sikorsky turned his attention to fixed-wing aeroplanes. After the 1917 Revolution he left the country, settling in the United States some two years later, and soon entering the aircraft industry of his new country. In 1938, when he was Engineering Manager of the Vought-Sikorsky Division of United Aircraft Corporation, years of study and research into rotary-wing flight problems were rewarded when the directors of U.A.C. agreed to let him try once again to build a practical helicopter. The VS-300, as the project was named, was designed and built during the first half of 1939, and on 14 September Sikorsky was at the controls when the aircraft made its first vertical take-off. At this stage the aircraft was still tethered to the ground and had weights suspended underneath it to help keep it stable. It was powered by a 4-cylinder Lycoming engine of 75hp, had full cyclic pitch control for the main rotor and a single anti-torque tail rotor at the end of a narrow enclosed tailboom which also supported a large under-fin. The cyclic control was not fully satisfactory, however, and by the time the VS-300 made its first free flight on 13 May 1940 (now powered by a 90hp Franklin motor) the configuration had changed to an open-framework steel-tube fuselage with outriggers at the tail end. Each of these mounted a horizontally-rotating airscrew to provide better lateral control; the vertical tail screw was retained.

By mid-1940 the VS-300 was staying airborne for 15 min. at a time, and on 6 May 1941 it beat the world endurance record held by the Fw.61 by staying aloft for 1 hr. 32 min. 26.1 sec. Various modifications were made during 1940-41, the most important being the replacement of the tail outriggers in June 1941 by a short vertical pylon carrying a single horizontal tail rotor, and the reinstatement in December of a now fully satisfactory cyclic pitch control for the main rotor. Other alterations concerned the arrangement of the main undercarriage and the fitting of nose and tail wheels in place of skids. In April 1941 Sikorsky made a successful take-off from water by fitting pneumatic flotation bags under the main undercarriage wheels. In its final form the VS-300 had a 150hp Franklin engine, a fabric-covered fuselage and a tricycle undercarriage.

Testing continued throughout 1942 (by which time development of Sikorsky's first production helicopter, the R-4, was well advanced), and in 1943 the VS-300 was delivered to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where it is still housed today.

The first practical helicopters, in the sense that they accomplished satisfactorily manoeuvres that we now take for granted - vertical take-off and landing, hovering, and forward, backward and sideways flight - were the Breguet-Dorand and the Fw.61. The VS-300 accomplished more, by paving the way for production aircraft that could carry a useful load and perform a productive job of work. The general manager of Sikorsky Aircraft, Lee S. Johnson, summed up its contribution twenty years later when he said: 'Before Igor Sikorsky flew the VS-300, there was no helicopter industry; after he flew it, there was."

K.Munson "Helicopters And Other Rotorcraft Since 1907", 1968

Photo Gallery 

The first flight of Sikorsky VS-300, 1939

Sikorsky VS-300 with two tail rotors

Sikorsky VS-300 with three tail rotors

An intermediate version of the VS-300 with Igor Sikorsky at the controls. The sign on the rear fuselage reads "VOUGHT-SIKORSKY VS-300, Stratford, Connecticut"

Upward-angled rear outriggers reveal another VS-300 configuration by the spring of 1941.

Igor Sikorsky, wearing his trademark Homburg, at the controls of the VS-300A. The aircraft had just set a world endurance record of 1 hour and 32.5 minutes.

Sikorsky sets a world record by keeping the VS-300 aloft 1 hour and 32 minutes on May 6, 1941.

The VS-300 in its final configuration at the end of 1941.

A VS-300A being flown by Igor Sikorsky on 16 March 1942. This aircraft was generally similar to the first VS-300 but had a completely enclosed fuselage. Note that the right wheel (white circle) has fallen off, and almost hit the person on the ground.

Sikorsky VS-300

Sikorsky VS-300

Vought-Sikorsky VS-300

Sikorsky VS-300

haley, e-mail, 25.02.2021reply

Ironically inspiring how so much has grown and evolved over a short period of life. Genius. PEACENDLOVE!

Robert MacKellar IV, e-mail, 14.04.2016reply

The man in the black coverall name was Frank B. Jenkins. In the 7th photo down, holding the sign "worlds record broken" was my father, Robert MacKellar III

Lindsey, e-mail, 06.05.2021 Robert MacKellar IV

I'm trying to reach the family of Robert MacKeller. I have his US history in miniature collection


Raymond, e-mail, 15.11.2014reply

My neighbor on Whidbey Island, WA is Frank Robinson (Robinson Helicopter)who worked with Sikorsky in the '40's. Just wondering what role the Frank Robinson made, if any, in the VS300. My understanding was that he was a Senior Development Engineer. What do you say?

James Roncoli, e-mail, 18.05.2013reply

When you think how long it took man to overcome the need to use ships with sails compared to the Wright Brothers attempt to fly in the early 1900's to Sikorsky's Helicopter flying in the mid 1900's, it certainly is a magnificent achievement in the field of Aero Engineering and shows how far we came in such a short span of time. Today we truly live in a remarkable age.

Cam, 24.08.2010reply

WTF hou? You're in the wrong place to be soliciting wigs and costumes. Srsly.

victor brown, e-mail, 28.08.2010reply

please may i be a member of this company i love your construction

Zac Yates, e-mail, 03.11.2010reply

Long shot, does anyone know where I can obtain a DVD of a 1980s doco called "The Chopper"? I have no idea who produced it, exact year, or who the English-sounding narrator is. It includes interviews with Hanna Reitsch and Bart Kelley (coworker of Arthur Young at Bell), and other techs and pilots, as well as footage of the prototype NOTAR, Apache, Sikorsky ABC and the XV-15 as well as the many variations of the VS-300.

john mower, e-mail, 29.12.2010reply


roberta, e-mail, 12.06.2011reply

will they ever go the speed of sound

satendera gauta, e-mail, 03.11.2011reply

i have idea for make a helicopter some money but i have no partner plz.. tel me what i do

*.*, e-mail, 30.01.2012reply

that thing is cool. but it would get destroyed by an apache ah-1

Oksana, 08.03.2012reply

Ah excuse me... he was UKRAINIAN!!!!

Al Meyer, e-mail, 13.06.2014reply

Question: Does anybody know the length, rotor diameter and height of this first version ?

hou, e-mail, 08.06.2010reply

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Raquel Schell, e-mail, 09.12.2009reply

How does this certain air craft turn?

rachel, e-mail, 14.05.2009reply

these are ugly

Tony Morris, e-mail, 22.04.2008reply

Great information! My father, Les Morris, was the Chief Test Pilot on the Sikorsky VS-300 starting in March, 1941 (and on the XR-4, XR-5 and XR-6 which followed) so I was especially interested in what you have online.

One correction: at http: / / /helicopters_eng /sik_vs-300.php, the caption in the final photo says "Note that the right wheel (white circle) has fallen off, and almost hit the person on the ground." According to the original films (which I have put onto videotape), there were two people on the ground during this demonstration: one in a tan trench coat, the other in a black coverall. They removed the tire while Sikorsky hovered, then backed away as he flew slowly off to the right. It's hard to tell from the still photo what we're seeing, but the person in black coveralls was behind the person in the trench coat as they backed away from the helicopter. It could be the tire in the second person's hands or it could be a portion of his coveralls. In any event, the tire definitely did not fall off!

If you'd like to see a screen shot as they remove the tire, send me an e-mail address and I'd be glad to send it along.

sonata6brick, e-mail, 29.05.2007reply

It's a masterpiece rich in originality of russian genius...

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