06/30/2012. First flown on June 25, 1928, the S-38 was the first big commercial success for Igor Sikorsky in the US: a total of only ten examples of his eight previous designs had been built, but the S-38 achieved a production run of 114. After the S-36 it was the company's second amphibian, developed for use by Pan American and NYRBA (New York, Rio, and Buenos Aires Line) on Caribbean and South American routes.
Carrying eight passengers and a crew of two, the initial S-38A could cruise at 100 mph (161 kmh) on its two 410 hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines and had a range of 600 mls (966 km). The major version, with more powerful Wasps, was the S-38B, over 75 of which were built. This carried ten passengers, had increased fuel capacity, and was used extensively by Pan American, in particular, to expand its route network in the Caribbean.
Final production version was the S-38C, with the same powerplant but two extra passengers and less fuel. Four of the eight or more S-38Cs completed were operated by Inter-Island Airways of Hawaii, one remaining in service until as late as 1946. Other operators of the various S-38 models included American Airways, Canadian Airways, Colonial-Western Airways, Northwest Airways and Western Air Express; examples went also to private or corporate owners, and to the USAAC and the USN.
Throughout their service they built up an enviable reputation for ruggedness and versatility. In July/August 1930 an S-38BH, one of two converted to the 575 hp Hornet B powerplant, set three height-with-payload world records for seaplanes, having had its wheel gear removed in order to qualify for this class. This performance directly encouraged development of the larger S-41 of 1932.
Western Air Express acquired the pictured aircraft in 1928, it crashed at Avalon Harbour, California, on June 5, 1929.