In 1980 the American Helicopter Society (AHS) created the Sikorsky contest naming it in honor of legendary helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. had originally pledged $20,000 in prize money for whoever could win the competition by achieving the engineering feat of building the first human-powered helicopter. The company recently raised the prize pledge to $250,000.
“Igor Sikorsky, founder of Sikorsky Aircraft, believed that individuals provide the spark that moves mankind ahead. This competition continues his legacy by inspiring ingenuity in the next generation of engineers who will design our industry's future,” said Mark Miller, vice president of research and engineering at Sikorsky Aircraft. “Our company is built on innovation. We believe strongly in the power of challenge,” he added.
The competition challenges engineers to develop a human-powered helicopter that can reach an altitude of at least 10 feet during a hover lasting 60 seconds. Although some have attempted, no one has met these requirements. The official world record is held by Professor Akira Naito of Nihon University in Japan, with an altitude of 0.2 meters and flight duration of 19.46 seconds.
Sikorsky Aircraft informed AHS International at its annual forum in May that the company would increase its pledged contribution, which AHS would award to the competition winner.