Review: Sikorsky S-16

Sikorsky S-16, by Vadim Mikheyev, Great War Aircraft in Profile #1 (Flying Machines Press, 1997), 32 pp, 36 photos, US$19.95.

The life and aeronautical accomplishments of Igor Sikorsky have been better documented in recent years thanks to a couple of books and an exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum (not to mention the admirable online Sikorsky Historical Archives—Ed.). Yet, the aircraft designed by this pioneer during his Russian years have fared less well. The appearance of a new study is thus cause for celebration. Sikorsky S-16 is the first in a new series from Flying Machines Press, a publisher well-known for specialized works on First World-War aviation. It is a notable departure from the massive tomes hitherto offered by this publisher, a slim book translated from a 1994 Russian monograph.

The S-XVI was developed in 1914 as a two seat training aircraft for the Russian aviation forces. It was the first indigenous single-engined aircraft design to see series production. While it was a two place aircraft, it did not have dual controls. So, following its introduction as a training machine, the Russians also began to use the S-XVI for reconnaissance and, after the fitting of a machine gun, aerial fighting. The poor performance of the available engines limited the operational use of the S-XVI, however. By mid-1916, it was completely outclassed by the new aircraft that the Central Powers were then introducing. It was soon replaced by Nieuport scouts.

Sikorsky S-16 is a welcome addition to WW1 aviation literature. The text is a substantial description of the construction, development and use of the S-XVI, all based on otherwise little-known archival sources in Russia. The selection of photographs published here is limited, but many of these are previously unpublished. A number of images show S-XVI airframes under construction and clearly illustrate internal details. The book includes plan-view drawings in what seem to be 1/48 and 1/72 scale. There are color profiles on the covers, though the S-XVI displayed relatively little variety in its colors and markings, most being clear-doped.

Highly recommended.

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Text © 1998 by Charles Hart.