Saturday, December 09, 2006

Boris Vasilievich Sergievsky 1888–1971

Sikorsky S42 Flying Boat overhead Miami
Flown World Atltitude/Payload Record Cover signed by Boris Sergievsky and NAA Observer Heinmuller

Boris Sergievsky was one of the most colourful of the early aviators. He made his first flight less than ten years after the Wright brothers made theirs; he made his last only four years before the first Concorde took off.

Born in Russia in 1888, Boris Sergievsky learned to fly in 1912. His life of high adventure began when he fought as a Russian infantry officer, winning the Imperial Russia's highest honour for leading his infantrymen in a charge that captured a fortified enemy hilltop. He then took to the air to become a fighter pilot and combat ace against Austria-Hungary during WWI, and again, after the Bolshevik revolution, he fought in the White Army.
In 1923, he emigrated to the USA, but the first job he could find in New York was with a pick and shovel, digging the Holland Tunnel, but he soon joined Igor Sikorsky's airplane company. He became chief test pilot for the Sikorsky flying boats that Pan American Airways used worldwide, setting seventeen world aviation records along the way. Over the next ten years, Pan American Airways established routes across Latin America and the Pacific, using Sikorsky flying boats. Sergievsky tested them all and flew many of the inaugural flights.
He made pioneering flights across vast stretches of Latin America, carrying everything from mining machinery to boa constrictors. He flew Osa and Martin Johnson(famous for films in the 1930’s) across uncharted African jungles, survived a tidal wave that smashed his flying boat in mid-ocean, and escaped a blazing crash when his airplane caught fire in midair.
After 1941 he was recruited by the OSS, and eventually found himself testing captured German jet aircraft. He continued flying until 1965, when he lost his medical certificate at age 77.
There must be few men who had in one lifetime led his men in a charge and fought the enemy with a saber, flown a Nieuport, sung the principal tenor role in a performance of Rigoletto, heaved a shovel in New York, worked for the National Biscuit Corporation, became a connoisseur of fine wine and women and an authority of Russian cooking, survived, among other disasters, flying into a tidal wave, and finally, testing German jet aircraft!!