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Multi-motored Airplanes, 1933

Gaining Fame

In that era between 1910 and 1930, aviation advances were encouraged by hundreds of prizes offered for various accomplishments, the most famous being the Orteig prize for the first person to fly between Paris and New York non-stop. Sikorsky was among nine competitors for the prize. Funded by French aviator Renee Fonck, he modified his 16-passenger model S-35 by adding a third engine, larger wings, and increased fuel capacity. Fonck's attempt failed and all others were soundly defeated by Charles Lindbergh's famous flight in May 1927. The Lindbergh flight did have the effect of breaking the barrier to trans-Atlantic air travel and commercial aviation soon became a reality, first in air mail transport and then in passenger travel.

In 1929, the Sikorsky Aviation Company became a subsidiary of United Aircraft Corporation and partnered with Pan American Airways in building large capacity amphibious airplanes to service both domestic and foreign commercial routes and Sikorsky gained fame and recognition. The flying boats were christened "clippers" and traveled the world. In 1934, the S-42 flying boat was the first airplane to cross the Pacific Ocean. At that time, amphibians and flying boats were preferred for their ability to land on water in places where ground airports were not available. However, the age of the flying boats and their position as the flagships of passenger air travel was drawing to a close. Sikorsky Aviation's airplane production closed down in 1938 but Igor Sikorsky's position as an aviation pioneer was about to expand.