The Flying Boat

Sikorsky Amphibion, NEEKAH, at Palm Beach, 1930 Negative # 1984.187.38034F

In the early 20th century, flying boats allowed contemplation of long distance, over-water transport. At the time, no civil airports had a sufficient runway to accommodate the weight of such a plane and water was the alternative landing strip.

Pictured here is the Sikorsky Amphibion (the use of the “o” became a trademark) Neekah at Palm Beach in 1930. Saunders Davis, pilot, is to the far left leaning on the wing. Neekah was a Sikorsky S-38 designed by Russian-born Igor Sikorsky in 1928.

The S-38 was equipped with two 420-horsepower Pratt and Whitney Wasp engines and carried a crew of two and eight or nine passengers. The interior was equipped similar to that of a yacht.

The Sikorsky S-38 was known as “The Explorer’s Air Yacht.” Many were widely used in South America, the Dutch East Indies, and West Africa for both transportation and survey work. In 1929, Charles Lindbergh flew an S-38 to introduce service from the United States and the Panama Canal. Africa explorers Osa and Martin Johnson’s S-38, OSA’S ARK, was painted in zebra stripes and used during their “Flying Safari” in 1934. None of the original 101 that were built exists today but in the 1990s, two replicas were built, one of which was used in the film The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes.

— Carol Mowrey

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