Two crewmen are trapped on a barge that is caught on a reef off Bridgeport Harbor and is threatening to break up in the winter storm when they are hoisted from the deck and brought to shore by helicopter. Today this event seems unremarkable, but on November 29, 1945, it marked an aviation turning point: the world's first civilian helicopter rescue mission.
The man responsible for developing a practical helicopter is aviation legend Igor Sikorsky, a Russian-born pilot, engineer, and entrepreneur. Captivated as a boy by Leonardo da Vinci's inventive drawings, Sikorsky decided early in his engineering career to develop the helicopter. Aviation pioneers told him he was wasting his time. Fleeing to the United States in the wake of the Bolshevik revolution, Sikorsky recalled later that “in America I found the confirmation of my hopes and came to understand the reason for the success of this great country: Nothing can equal the free work of free men.” He founded the Sikorsky Manufacturing Corporation in 1925, returned to his work on the helicopter in 1931, and, wearing his trademark fedora, flew the first experimental model in 1939.
A Christian who “believed that some artists ... possess the gift of seeing beyond the curtain of time and detecting cloudy visions of things to come,” Sikorsky modestly suggested that “engineers may also share this gift.” For Sikorsky, such intuition “works with a surprising speed and brilliance, when, in a moment, a solution of a ... complicated problem comes in with remarkable clarity, and so convincingly that no doubts are left to its correctness” (www.sikorskyarchives.com).
The story of Sikorsky's passionate genius illustrates the truth that entrepreneurs are impresarios, visionaries who organize numerous factors, take risks, and combine resources to create something greater than the sum of its parts–all of which takes place best in an environment of freedom. It has long been our conviction that entrepreneurship is a high calling; thank you for the support that has allowed us to bring this message to business and religious communities over the past ten years.
Fr. Robert A. Sirico
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