Barrett Thomas “Tom” Beard

Wonderful Flying Machines


While millions of people readily associate the trilogy of Helicopter-Rescue-Coast Guard, few are aware of the symbiotic relationship between the smallest of the armed services, the genial genius Igor Sikorsky, and the then-emerging helicopter struggling for development in the midst of World War II. Incredible as it now seems, great resistance to developing and utilizing rotary-wing aircraft was entrenched within each of the armed forces, and only the relentless, dogged determination of less than a handful of Coast Guard officers turned the tide and launched a new chapter in aviation history.

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The story of the helicopter and its creator, Igor Sikorsky, and chief promoter, a young Coast Guard lieutenant named Frank Erickson, closely parallels that of Wilbur and Orville Wright and their first flying machine. Like that famous brother team, these courageous visionaries risked their lives and careers on a dream. Dubbed “Igor’s Nightmare” in the early days of its development, the helicopter brought derision and ridicule on its supporters. Few who saw the contraption, with it flailing rotors and staccato motion, could be convinced that it was the momentous achievement it would one day be considered. This book clearly demonstrates the problems encountered by the personalities involved and their strengths in developing the helicopter for Coast Guard use. It shows how Erickson and his friend and mentor, Coast Guard captain William Kossler, undaunted by their lack of support, fought with single-minded intensity to establish the helicopter as a vital rescue tool in the service. Kossler died while the project was still in its infancy. Erickson left the service in disgrace but lived to see his efforts succeed when the helicopter revolutionized search-and-rescue operations. (Description from Naval Inst Pr, who first published this book in hardcover November 1, 1996).

Wonderful Flying Machines received the 2018 “Bronze” award from Military Writers Society of America





Additional information




Barrett Thomas “Tom” Beard




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Page/Word Count

240 pages




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