Since 1929, it’s been home to the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a helicopter manufacturing company founded by Igor Sikorsky, and the site of America’s first practical helicopter flights.
In the earliest days of aviation, airplanes arriving in Stratford would simply land at Avon Field, a local racetrack, until a nearby site next to Long Island Sound was developed as an airfield.
Hangars went up in the 1920s, with one occupied by the Glenn Curtiss Flying School and another by Sikorsky. There, he built flying boats, including the famous Pan Am Clippers, for the burgeoning airline industry and experimented with early helicopter designs.
For a few years the airport was named Mollison Field, after Jim Mollison, a Scottish aviator who crashed there in 1933 during an attempt to fly the Atlantic Ocean from Wales to New York.
The city of Bridgeport purchased the airport in 1937, renaming it Bridgeport Municipal Airport, although the airport is in Stratford.
On September 14, 1939, Sikorsky made the first flight of the VS–300, a helicopter considered to be the first practical design, and the first with a single overhead rotor. Although it proved that vertical flight was possible, the helicopter was unstable and needed years of further refinement.
During World War II, Vought F4U Corsair fighters were built in a factory at the edge of the airport and flown off to the war. In 1943, Charles Lindbergh visited Vought to test pilot the experimental V–173 “Flying Pancake.”
The facility was renamed Igor Sikorsky Memorial Airport in 1972. Today, it’s a general aviation airport and home to the Connecticut Air and Space Center, a museum of vintage airplanes, helicopters, and memorabilia with a focus on locally manufactured aircraft. Drop in at Sikorsky Memorial Airport to learn more about Connecticut aviation history and check on the restoration of the 1928 Curtiss Hangar.
Dennis K. Johnson is an aviation writer living in New York City.