This week in 1944: Helicopters

Looking back at the previous 12 months, this article identified 1943 as the year that the helicopter began to take off. ‘Renewed interest in the helicopter was manifested during the year, both from the military and the civil point of view,’ wrote the magazine.

One of the most significant developments, it claimed, was ‘the helicopter designed by Mr Igor Sikorsky… a true helicopter in the sense that it depends upon a power-driven rotor or fan for both lift and forward drive, and is not equipped with an independent power-driven airscrew or propeller.’

The article outlines improvements to an earlier Sikorsky design that used the main fan motor to drive three auxiliary motors, two horizontally mounted at the ends of traverse outriggers on the tail, and the third mounted in a vertical plane on an outrigger at the rear of the fuselage. ‘The improved form,’ wrote The Engineer, ‘dispenses with the two outboard horizontally rotating motors and instead lateral control is obtained by varying the pitch of the main fan blades in a cylindrical manner.’

The article reported growing interest in this fascinating mode of transport: ‘It is understood that the British government has placed orders for Sikorsky helicopters for military and naval use, while in the United States the Greyhound Corporation has applied for permission to establish 78 routes, covering 49,000 miles, on which Sikorsky helicopters are to be used.’

The article concludes: ‘Mr Sikorsky supports this project and has prepared plans for 14-passenger helicopters driven by two 600hp motors at an average speed of 100mph, and having a ceiling of 10,000ft. [He] thinks that such machines could be in service within two and half years at the most.’

Jon Excell