On March 5,1923, Igor I Sikorsky formed the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation, based at the chicken-farm of his Russian friend Victor Utgoff (a former lieutenant in the Russian navy), near Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, USA. The first aircraft built was the S-29-A (Sikorsky’s 29th design, the ‘A’ denoted America), a twin-engined fourteen passenger airplane. The aircraft was finished after financial backing by the composer Rachmaninoff, who subsequently became the company’s first vice president.
The S-29-A had a steel structure while the strutted and wire-braced wings had were made of wood and linen. The aircraft was initially fitted with two 220 hp Hispano-Suiza engines. The passengers were seated in an enclosed cabin in the front part of the fuselage, while the pilot and the mechanic were seated in an open cockpit on top of the fuselage, half-way between wing and tailplane. The S-29-A was one of the first aircraft with an airstair door, it was fitted on the starboard side.
The S-29-A’s was finished at Roosevelt Field. The intended first flight on May 4, 1924, did not take place as the aircraft was damaged. While being repaired the engines were replaced by two 400 hp Liberty engines and the successful maiden flight was made on September 25, 1924, from Roosevelt Field. With the Liberty engines the S-29-A was the first twin-engined aircraft able to fly on a single engine. Sikorsky made more than 200 demonstration flights to military and other organizations, but no orders were forthcoming. Sikorsky made the first dollars with the S-29-A when he transported two grand pianos from New York City to Washington, D.C., one of the two was delivered to the wife of President Herbert Hoover.
With no airline and military interest, the S-29-A was sold to Roscoe Turner in 1925. Turner made many long-distance flights in the East and Midwest, provided airline service between New York and Atlanta, advertised the latest fashions for an Atlanta department store, flew various civic groups to meetings and even transformed the S-29-A into a "Flying Cigar Store". In 1927 the aircraft was leased to Howard Hughes and was modified to represent a WW I Gotha bomber in the movie "Hell's Angels".
Open cockpits were created at the front, while the actual flying was done from the original cockpit. The aircraft was finished in black with all kind of (incorrect) German decorations. For the film the aircraft would simulate a spinning down in flames, but while filming the plane went out of control. The pilot was able to bail out, however the mechanic operating the smoke generator didn’t and was killed in the following crash.
Twin engined fourteen passenger transport biplane
Two 220 hp Hispano-Suiza engines initially, replaced by two 400 hp Liberty engines
69 ft (21.03 m)
49 ft 10 in (15.19 m)
4,225 lb (1,916 kg)
115 mph (185 kmh)
100 mph (161 km/h)
12,300 ft (3,749 m)