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Sikorsky Le Grand / Russkii Vitiaz (Russian Knight)


In 1912 Igor Sikorsky began construction of an aircraft with a wing-span of 28 m (92 ft) it was at that time by far the largest heavier-than-air craft to fly; the first to have four engines; the first with a fully-enclosed passenger cabin; and the first designed specifically as an airliner.

Officially known as Russkii Vitiaz (Russian Knight), the big biplane was dubbed the Grand or Bolshoi before its first flight on 13 May 1913. The Grand weighed 4080 kg (8000 lb) and was powered by four 100-hp water-cooled Argus engines arranged initially in tandem pairs, but after the first ten-minute test flight the two rear-mounted engines were moved outboard on the wings. In June 1914, Sikorsky piloted the 10,000-1b S-22 named Ilia Mourotz on a 1,600mi. round trip from St. Petersburg to Kiev.

Numerous difficulties were encountered in the design and construction; there were no wheels of adequate size to support the Grand, so a 16-wheel bogie undercarriage had to be built. The cabin incorporated some novelties. At the front was a large open balcony with a searchlight mounted on a gimbal; next came the cockpit with dual controls for two pilots; behind this was the passenger cabin, luxuriously appointed with four seats, sofa, table, washroom and wardrobe.

The Grand flew well and subsequently made 53 flights including a record-breaking duration flight of 1 hour 53 minutes with eight people aboard on 2 August 1913. Later that month a military Voisin biplane broke up in the air over the airfield and its engine fell onto the Grand. Sikorsky subsequently redesigned the aircraft as the Ilya Muromets.

Engines: 4 x 100 hp Argus four cylinder in-line piston
Wing span: 91 ft 10.25 in (28.00 m)
Length: 62 ft 4 in (19.00 m)
Gross weight: approx. 9,039 lb (4,100 kg)
Max. speed: approx. 59 mph (95 km/h) at 3,280 ft (1,000 m)
Accommodation: Crew of 2 + 8 passengers
Typical endurance: 1 hr 45 min



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