The First Helicopter Mission, a Lifesaving Flight
After an explosion on the Navy destroyer USS Turner, anchored off the coast of New Jersey On January 3, 1944, there was a tremendous need for blood plasma. However a sweeping snowstorm with violent winds was stopping rescue operations and all airfields were closed. That day Commander Frank Erickson flew a HNS-1 (Sikorsky R-4) to pick up and deliver 2 cases of blood plasma, lashed to the helicopter’s floats, from the New York City’s waterfront Battery Park to a Sandy Hook, New Jersey hospital where the injured sailors were being treated.
Erickson, the first Coast Guard helicopter pilot and instructor, called the flight routine but the New York Times predicted the role of rotary aircraft in its editorial, “It was indeed routine for the strange rotary-winged machine which Igor Sikorsky has brought to practical flight, but it shows in striking fashion how the helicopter can make use of tiny landing areas in conditions of visibility which make other types of flying impossible.”
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