1988 36¢ Igor Sikorsky
Issue Date: June 23, 1988
First City: Stratford, Connecticut
Quantity Issued: 111,550,000
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed, engraved
U.S. # C119 features Igor Sikorsky, a native of Czarist Russia, who was a leading aircraft designer. Driven out of Russia by the Revolution, he became an American citizen. Sikorsky built the first practical single-rotor helicopter. The craft pictured on the stamp was successfully flown in 1940.
First Helicopter Airmail Flight
On October 1, 1947, the first official Airmail service flown by helicopter was inaugurated in Los Angeles.
Prior to this, the postal service experimented with delivery by autogiro aircraft. On July 6, 1939, an autogiro was used to fly 52,128 first flight covers from the Central Airport at Camden, New Jersey, to the roof of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania post office. Autogiros were then put into service in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.
However, the autogiro’s time was short-lived with the advent of helicopter service. Helicopter Airmail test flights had been conducted in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and New York. After those proved successful, helicopters were officially made part of the US Airmail fleet on June 2, 1947.
The US Civil Aeronautics Board authorized Los Angeles Airways (LAA) to operate Airmail service in Southern California. Their initial contract authorized them to serve 30 LA post offices for three years. They would use the Sikorsky S-51 helicopter.
The first Airmail flight occurred on October 1, 1947. The service was so popular, they expanded it to include two flights each day between the main downtown post office and the Los Angeles International Airport.
By the end of the first year of operations, LAA had a fleet of five S-51s carrying out these deliveries. In that first year alone, they had carried 700 tons of mail and made 40,000 landings throughout Los Angeles. The service performed well, with a 95% reliability rate.
On December 17, 1953, LAA made the world’s first air express helicopter deliveries. They also started providing scheduled passenger service in 1954 using the larger S-55’s. LAA continued to deliver Airmail by helicopter until 1964. By the time operations ceased, they had carried over 82 million pounds of Airmail and over 25 million pounds of air express mail. LAA ceased all of its operations in 1971.