A brief history of the Sikorsky Russky Vityaz S-12

By Willie Bodenstein


The Sikorsky Russky Vityaz S-12 was designed by Igor Sikorsky in 1911 when no known aircraft could lift more than 600 kilograms. Built at the Russian Baltic Railroad Car Works the S-12 was the first four-engine aircraft in the world and the first aircraft with a lavatory.

Experts and the media around the world were predicting a complete failure while others considered it to be a newspaper hoax and did not believe that an aircraft of such dimensions would never leave the ground. However, the first aerial test on 10 May 1913 was successful. The aircraft left the ground after a 700-meter (2,300 ft) takeoff run.

The S-12's fuselage was a rectangular section girder, covered with plywood sheets closely resembling a railway coach of the time. The aircraft had a cabin with a dual control column, two passenger cabins and a storage room for spare parts as well as a toilet. There was also an open deck forward of the pilot's cabin equipped, in the military version, with a searchlight and machine gun. The ailerons on the upper wings provided for the airplane's stability.

After the Russky Vityaz's first test flights between 10 and 27 May 1913 it was established that a passenger could even walk around the cabins without causing any problems to stability.

On 2 August Sikorsky flew the "Grand" for one hour and fifty-four minutes with eight persons on board. Sikorsky made a total of fifty-three flights with the "Grand" before it was damaged by falling debris from a different aircraft.

Sikorsky's aspirations for the Russky Vityaz proved to be short-lived. While parked on the runway on 23 June 1913, the aircraft was crushed by an engine that fell off a single-seat Morane-Saulnier aircraft during a landing. Sikorsky decided not to repair the seriously damaged Russky Vityaz and began working on his next brainchild - the Ilya Muromets.

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