Exclusive 11:46 03 Apr 2018

Ihor Sikorskyi's son: Our family very much approves of the father's name being assigned to the airport in Kyiv

About character qualities and continuing the work of the helicopter inventor in an exclusive interview with Serhii Sikorskyi

Serhii Sikorskyi at the wheel. Photo from Serhii Sikorskyi's personal archive.

Serhii Sikorskyi at the wheel. Photo from Serhii Sikorskyi's personal archive.

It's official. The Kyiv City Council voted to assign the name of the brilliant Ukrainian engineer to the Kyiv International Airport (Zhuliany). Not without long twists and turns. More than a year before that they said such a step would be made for Boryspil, but the Zhuliany staff was the first to support the initiative.

Ihor Sikorskyi went down in world history as the creator of the first multi-engine airplanes and helicopters. This legendary Kyiv resident's developments have become a springboard for 90% of modern aviation. His helicopters immediately began to be used for security, sanitary, and police purposes, thus destroying the prevailing opinion about the future of aeronautics as an entertainment field. During the inventor's lifetime, thanks to his helicopters, more than one and a half million human lives were saved; Sikorskyi called this his most important achievement.

We talked with the 93-year-old son of an outstanding inventor, Serhii Sikorskyi, who lives in Arizona and, despite his considerable age, impresses with his openness, attitude, and wisdom. Moreover, he's still working. Serhii is a pilot himself, former vice president, and now a consultant to the world-famous company Sikorsky Aircraft. He easily agreed to an interview between meetings, saying that he's closely following what's happening in Ukraine.


– Last year the largest technical university in Ukraine, Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, was named after Ihor Sikorskyi. Now it's also the second-largest airport in Kyiv. Does your family keep in touch with Ukraine? Are you watching the renewed interest in your father's name?

– Yes, of course. Kyiv let me know that a decision had been passed to rename one of the two airports and make a Sikorsky memorial there.

Our family very much approves of this step. We're very glad that many people in Ukraine are proud that Ihor Sikorskyi was born and studied in your capital. I remember very well that my father was proud that he was born in Kyiv, and repeatedly stressed this.

Игорь и Сергей Сикорский

Ihor Sikorskyi with his son Serhii. Photo from Serhii Sikorskyi's personal archive


– Do you know about the condition of the family estate on Yaroslaviv Val Street in Kyiv? Now the historic building is in ruins. A year ago, it was returned to the state, and the public regularly raises the question of creating a museum there. Does your family want to get involved in this process?

– I used to be there often when I visited Kyiv. I made a special trip to the estate. The house is, of course, badly damaged. And now everything rests on the issue of financing. I know different options are offered: either a complete reconstruction of this house or demolishing the house and building a new one on the foundation site, which would be a museum. But in any case, both solutions will cost serious money.

We, the Sikorsky family, are very interested in the estate's state. But we can only look at it from the exterior. Because the question of the fate of this monument should be the decision of Kyiv city and the government.

I'm 93 years old, and I start everything new slowly and moderately. With God's help, I can bustle about for another 5-6 years. I don't want to take on too much unbearable responsibility, especially since it's not in my authority. But we're ready to support with whatever is needed and reasonable.

By the way, the Polytechnic University in Kyiv has a wonderful exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Ihor Sikorskyi. That is, there's a good historical base, and the beginning for a museum already exists. They have many original and exclusive exhibits. About 15 years ago they contacted us; at their request, the Sikorsky Aircraft plant, and our family sent them a lot of materials, hundreds of photographs, models of the most important aircraft that my father built here in America. I haven't been there yet. But I hope to definitely go to Kyiv, visit the Polytechnic Museum and see this exposition.

Дом Сикорских в Киеве

The Sikorsky House in Kyiv on Yaroslaviv Val street 15-B is in a dilapidated state. Photo SergeyUA/Panoramio


– Are you the only one of the children who continued the work of their father? Are there any successors among your children, grandchildren?

– Maintaining the business is, of course, a tough question. Father always told us: "If you choose a profession, choose what you like. If the work is interesting for you, it will be successful." He had 4 sons. I'm the eldest and the only one who went to aviation. Other sons have chosen other professions that have nothing to do with it.

There's one grandson who's also a pilot. Also successful, loving and developing his career in this area. But all my other relatives aren't interested in aviation.

Игорь Сикорский с командой у модели летательного аппарата S-29. Фото из личного архива Сергея Сикорского

Ihor Sikorskyi with his team at the S-29 aircraft model. Photo from Serhii Sikorskyi's personal archive

– Sikorsky Aircraft is one of the best helicopter manufacturers in the United States. I read that US presidents fly on Sikorsky helicopters. Can you tell us more about this?

– I can say that starting with President Eisenhower, the White House has been flying only on Sikorsky aircraft for 40 years. And it's, of course, very positive and interesting for us. The White House is now preparing a new order for the latest Sikorsky aircraft to join its squadron. If everything goes well, we'll be fulfilling orders for another 10-20 years.

– How does Sikorsky Aircraft operate now?

– Approximately half of our orders are for various civilian helicopter lines, and the second is for military orders, i.e. army helicopters, the famous black hawk helicopters and, of course, a whole collection of new machines, some of which we're already producing for civil aviation. For example, the S-76 for 12 passengers is a very successful machine that sells well. We're currently conducting research programs on a new powerful helicopter that has ever been built in America. It'll be a vehicle with a takeoff weight of approximately 40-45 tons. That is, it's already a giant.

On the picture:Ihor Sikorskyi in New York


– They talk about your father as a person who couldn't only dream, invent, but also translate his revolutionary ideas into reality. Tell me, what do you think is the secret to his success?

– I'm personally convinced that Ihor Sikorskyi was a rare genius. I think if he were a surgeon he'd be an outstanding one. If he were an engineer of bridges or cities, he'd also only be first-class. He fell in love with aviation. And, of course, having entered this field, he worked brilliantly there. Ihor Sikorskyi was in love with his work and always strived to be at least one, or even two, decades ahead of time.

For example, when he created these mighty planes for Pan American Airways, it was because he was convinced that after the war civil aviation would develop, flights across the ocean would become technically possible and in demand. And he began developments even before the outbreak of World War II. He already created these aircraft, with which Pan American opened the first airlines from America to Europe. When he was working on big planes for airlines, he already had a spark, a project in his head "to build a helicopter." He started working on it in 1932-33 and also felt it was time for such a machine. Although no one believed him and even laughed at him, he stubbornly worked at home on his idea in the evenings. Ihor Sikorskyi had a unique ability to feel what would be needed in 20 years.

Игорь Сикорский

Ihor Sikorskyi near the helicopter. Photo from Serhii Sikorskyi's personal archive

– What's your dream?

– It's hard to say that what I had dreamed about came true. When I was 10-12 years old, I was already sure that I would be a pilot. I wanted to fly, to be an airplane commander. During World War II, I was also in military service and worked in helicopters. My dream has always been to tinker with aviation and helicopters.

– Would you like to wish Ukraine something?

– Yes, I wish the problems existing in your country now be resolved as soon as possible. Ukraine has great opportunities. Including serious aviation industries and growth potential. For example, the Antonov plant develops and produces the first-class aircraft. Hope this will continue and develop.


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