Sikorsky S-38

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Sikorsky S-38.jpg
A replica Sikorsky S-38 being positioned for display at AirVenture, Oshkosh in 2006.
Role Flying boat
National origin United States
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
Designer Igor Sikorsky
First flight 25 May 1928
Introduction October 1928
Primary users Pan American Airways
New York, Rio, and Buenos Aires Line
Hawaiian Airlines
Number built 101
Unit cost
$37,000 in 1930
Developed from Sikorsky S-34
Sikorsky S-36
Sikorsky PS-3, serving as a transport for the Eleventh Naval district. VJ-5 D11-4 (8285), photographed in March 1930.

The Sikorsky S-38 was an American twin-engined eight-seat sesquiplane amphibious aircraft. It was sometimes called "The Explorer's Air Yacht" and was Sikorsky's first widely produced amphibious flying boat which in addition to serving successfully for Pan American Airways and the U.S. Army, also had numerous private owners who received notoriety for their exploits.

Design and development

The S-38 was developed from the Sikorsky S-34 and S-36. The S-38 first flew on May 25, 1928. The United States Navy ordered two aircraft (designated XPS-2) and Pan American Airways was an early customer.

A total of 101 aircraft were built, manufactured originally by the Sikorsky Manufacturing Corporation of Long Island, New York, and by the Sikorsky Aviation Corporation in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Sikorsky was acquired by United Aircraft and Transport Corporation in mid-production.


A C-6A
11 Built
Ten-place model, 80 Built
12-place model, ten Built
United States Army Air Forces designation for the S-38A for evaluation, one aircraft later used as a VIP transport.
United States Army Air Forces designation for a C-6 with minor changes, ten aircraft.
United States Navy designation for the S-38A, two aircraft later converted to XRS-2 transports.
United States Navy designation for the S-38B, four aircraft later converted to RS-3 transports.
United States Navy designation for two XPS-2 converted as transports.
United States Navy/Marine Corps designation for the S-38B transport version, three aircraft and conversions from PS-3.
United States Navy designation for two civil S-38A impressed into service.



Some famous owners include:

Osa's Ark S-38


During the 1990s two reproduction S-38s were built by the late Buzz Kaplan’s “Born Again Restorations,” of Owatonna, Minnesota.[8] One was produced for Samuel Curtis Johnson Jr., the son of Herbert Fisk Johnson, to recreate his fathers flight, which he completed in 1998. As of August 2017 the plane is suspended from the ceiling of Fortaleza Hall in the S. C. Johnson & Son company headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin .[9] The other S-38 replica, N28V, appeared in the movie The Aviator (2004), a story loosely based on the life of Howard Hughes, who owned an S-38 during his lifetime. As of August 2017 it is owned by Kermit Weeks and located at the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, Florida, bearing the Osa's Ark paint scheme.[10][11]

Accidents and incidents

  • A SCADTA (actually Avianca, never was a Pan Am subsidiary) S-38, NC9107, crashed in the Colombian jungle near Pereira, killing all but one on board; the survivor was carried for seven days through the jungle to civilization.[citation needed]
  • T. Raymond Finucane, a wealthy Rochester, NY businessman, and three others disappeared over the sea aboard a Sikorsky Amphibian after departing Norfolk, Virginia for New York City March 22, 1929. In Miami, Florida, Finucane had wagered a friend who was traveling ahead by train that he (Finucane) would reach New York first. He chartered Curtiss Flying Service to fly him to New York from Miami. Also on board the missing aircraft were Frank Ables and J. Boyd, Curtiss mechanics, along with Harry Smith, the pilot. A massive search by Curtiss planes, American military planes, coast guard cutters, and even the airship Los Angeles failed to turn up anything. Mrs. Finucane, founding president of the Rochester Community Players, visited the Curtiss operation at Roosevelt Field, the destination of the flight, for updates.[12] Wreckage presumed to be from this plane was found eight years later by a fishing schooner.[13]
  • On September 25, 1932, a Panair do Brasil Sikorsky S-38 registration P-BDAD still bearing the titles of Nyrba do Brasil was seized in the company's hangar by three men, who took a fourth man hostage. None were aviators but they managed to take off. However the aircraft crashed in São João de Meriti, killing the four men. Apparently the hijack was related to the events of the Constitutionalist Revolution in São Paulo and it is considered to be the first hijack that took place in Brazil.[14][15]
  • A wealthy divorcee, Mrs. Francis Grayson, Brice Herbert Goldsborough (navigator) and Oskar Omdal, and Fred Koehler (passenger) set off to cross the Atlantic (a 3rd attempt) on Dec 23, 1927 (1928?) in a Sikorsky S-38, named "The Dawn". She was determined to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic. Sea conditions were stormy and rough, but she was determined. They passed Cape Cod, 8 am, due for Harbor Grace, Newfoundland. The Sable Island wireless station picked up "Something's wrong here" with their call letters...30 miles distant. They did not reach a landing port. This began the first-ever air relief expedition, including two destroyers and the USS Los Angeles dirigible. A message in a bottle was found on Jan 29, 1929, it read "1928, we are freezing. Gas leaked out. We are drifting off Grand Banks. Grayson." Nothing more is known.[16]

Specifications (S-38-A)

Sikorsky S-38 3-view drawing from NACA Aircraft Circular No.79

General characteristics

  • Crew: two
  • Capacity: ten passengers
  • Length: 40 ft 3 in (12.27 m)
  • Wingspan: 71 ft 8 in (21.85 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 10 in (4.22 m)
  • Wing area: 720 ft² (68.6 m²)
  • Empty weight: 6,000 lb (2,727 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 10,480 lb (4,764 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engines, 400 hp (298 kW) each


See also

  • Sikorsky RS, a designation used by the United States Navy for a number of different Sikorsky twin-engined amphibious flying boats

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. ^ "Sikorsky to United"; Time Magazine, July 29, 1929
  2. ^ Thiele, Ray (1994). Kennedy's Hawaiian Air. Olomana Publishers.
  3. ^ a b c Skyways. Panorama Publications. January 1999. ISSN 1025-2657. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ SBHAC - Aviones de la Fuerza Aérea de la República Española
  5. ^ Associated Press (2010-01-24). "SC Johnson unveils new architectural showpiece". Chicago Tribune. ISSN 1085-6706. Retrieved 2010-01-25. [permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Kamin, Blair (2010-01-27). "Meeting Mr. Wright: Norman Foster's new Fortaleza Hall at S.C. Johnson & Son converses winningly with the old master". Chicago Tribune. ISSN 1085-6706. Archived from the original on 2010-02-02. Retrieved 2011-01-29. In 1935, Herbert F. Johnson, then the company's president, flew the original model of the S-38 from Racine to the Brazilian city of Fortaleza in search of a lasting source of wax from the carnauba palm tree.
  7. ^ Burke, Michael (2008-05-12). "Johnson family's Spirit of Carnauba makes its final flight". The Journal Times. Racine, WI USA. Archived from the original on 2010-09-18. Retrieved 2012-06-16. Their trip re-created one that Fisk and Curt's grandfather, H.F. Johnson Jr., made in 1935. In that journey, he flew to Fortaleza in search of a sustainable source of the carnauba palm tree, then the indispensable ingredient in Johnson Wax.
  8. ^ Peterson, Moose (January 29, 2012). "The Stunning S-38 Sikorsky Flying Amphibian". Warbird Images. Archived from the original on March 23, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  9. ^ Carlsson, Cindy (August 2, 2017). "SC Johnson architecture tour, Racine, Wisconsin". Exploration Vacation. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  10. ^ "See World's Only Flying Sikorsky S-38 at AirVenture". 2012 AirVenture Oshkosh. Oshkosh, WI USA: EAA. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. External link in |work= (help)
  11. ^ Weeks, Kermit (Aug 18, 2017). Sikorsky S-38 Disassembly - FoF Mechanic's Corner (YouTube).
  12. ^ New York Times: March 25, 1929, March 26, 1929, March 27, 1929, and March 28, 1929
  13. ^ New York Times, Feb. 22, 1937
  14. ^ Pereira, Aldo (1987). Breve História da Aviação Comercial Brasileira (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Europa. p. 337.
  15. ^ Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Uma verdadeira aventura". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928-1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2.
  16. ^ Goldsborough Families, Karin Martin, 2010, pp. 146-150
  • Davies, R.E.G. (1987). Pan Am: An Airline and its Aircraft. New York, NY USA: Orion Books. ISBN 0-517-56639-7.
  • Yenne, Bill (2003). Seaplanes & Flying Boats: A Timeless Collection from Aviation's Golden Age. New York, NY USA: BCL Press. ISBN 1-932302-03-4.

External links

  • 1933 film of a flight of an S-38 into the mountains of BC
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