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The Grand, the world's first four-engine airplane, took off on its maiden flight on May 13, 1913 in St.Petersburg, Russia. At the controls was the plane's designer Igor I. Sikorsky. Until that historic flight, aircraft experts throughout the world repeatedly stated that a large craft like the Grand was too big and much too heavy to rise from the ground. Even if it did become airborne, they reasoned, the aircraft would be impossible to control, especially if one or more engines failed.
Sikorsky, who had already made a name for himself by designing and building helicopters and outstanding single-engine airplanes, disagreed with the experts. He realized that huge, multi-engined aircraft would be needed to carry passengers and freight over long distances.
The Grand dwarfed all other planes built up to that time. Its wingspan was 92 feetthree fourths the total distance traveled by the Wright brothers' Flyer on its first flight just a decade before. In addition, the Grand weighed about four and a half tons. Four 100-horsepower engines were mounted between the narrow wings, two to a side, with one in front of the other.
The pilot's and passenger cabins were unlike anything ever before seen in aviation design. A spacious balcony occupied the front part of the fuselage. A door connected the balcony with the pilot's cabin which had two seats and dual controls. Another door opened into the passenger cabin, a luxuriously appointed room with four seats, a small sofa and a washroom! Sikorsky considered the Grand to be an experimental aircraft, and he included these refinements to herald the future of commercial aviation.
The Grand made a total of 53 flawless
flights, including a world endurance record of one hour, 54 minutes with eight passengers
aboard, before a freak accident ended its illustrious career. While the huge plane was
participating in an air show, an engine broke loose from another plane in flight and fell
on the Grand. Although it never flew again, the giant aircraft had already
accomplished Sikorsky's objective. Not only did it open a new chapter in aviation history
by proving that a four-engine plane could fly successfully, but it became the inspiration
for all subsequent large, multi-engined airplanes.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: March 12, 2004