First of Many -Sikorsky S-51 Helicopter in RAAF ServiceThere are few aircraft that have profoundly affected military aviation in Australia. The Sikorsky S-51 (later known commonly in the UK as the Dragonfly as a result of licensed production by Westland Aircraft) was one of these. Despite only serving in small numbers with the Royal Australian Air Force - there were only three S-51 helicopters purchased by Australia - it launched Australia into a previously unknown field of aviation.
Sikorsky, the legendary aviation pioneer, will long be remembered as the man who gave the world its first practical helicopter. Sikorsky had already achieved worldwide recognition for building large, multi-engined, fixed wing aircraft, before he built and successfully flew his VS-300 helicopter in 1939. By the spring of 1941 this prototype helicopter was performing sufficiently well to warrant a contract being awarded for the development of a two-seat version that was designated the XR-4. The XR-4 underwent further development and its derivative, the R-5A, entered service with the US Navy and the US Coast Guard. The helicopter entered service with the RAF under the designation Hoverfly I.
Australian interest in procuring helicopters for service with the RAAF began during World War II in 1943, when the Air Board sought to obtain information concerning helicopter and autogyro development underway in the USA. That same year a requirement was issued for the provision of helicopters for use by the Australian Army in the South West Pacific theatre. This resulted in an order for six Sikorsky R-5 helicopters in June 1944. A number of RAAF pilots traveled to the USA and received familiarization and flying instruction on helicopters. However, when the war abruptly ended following the use of atomic weapons against Japan the order was cancelled in late 1945. Interest in obtaining helicopters for the Australian Army then waned.
Following the construction of the Sikorsky R-5, Australian interest was re-awakened and subsequently an order was placed for one Sikorsky S-51 four-seat helicopter. This helicopter was allocated the group/section stores identification A80. The helicopter was flown extensively before being lost in a crash in November 1951. Two additional examples of the S-51 were ordered during 1950 and arrived in Australia in May 1951. One of these (A80-636) crashed in December 1952 and the other (A80-374) remained in service until 1964 when it was converted to an instructional airframe. A80-374 is now displayed at the RAAF Museum, Point Cook, Victoria.
In this book the authors examine the design, structure, development, history and RAAF service of the S-51 in detail. Many photographs used in this volume have never previously been published. Clear, colour profiles provide a detailed, accurate account of the various colour schemes and national markings carried by this helicopter in RAAF service. A comprehensive modeling section provides additional detail tips for the modeler and reviews available kits. The book is a worthy addition to the modeller's reference library.