Could there be an airplane more homely than this one from the late 1920’s? Its nose? … way too long. Its bi-plane wings look mismatched for size. Was a tail almost forgotten? … because the tail is attached by skinny twin tail-booms and struts, way behind and above the fuselage. Unsure where to attach the engines? … they float between the upper and lower wings. The cabin itself has the shape of a classic motor yacht sitting on tricycle wheels … good for water and runway landings. Beyond that yacht-like appearance of the cabin, you would think that the design is all bubble gum and baling wire.
Even though the many struts led some to jokingly refer to it as a flying forest, this airplane must have looked very lovely to Igor Sikorsky, famous founder of Sikorsky Aviation, and designer of this model called the S-38 Amphibion (that spelling is Sikorsky’s). While most of his other models numbered just a handful apiece, the S-38 production ran to 101 which enabled Sikorsky to build a business that is still thriving today. Purchasers included PanAm, the US Army, and many private owners (making it nicknamed “the Explorer’s Air Yacht" because it is an amphibious flying boat). Sikorsky’s fame is built upon his helicopters, including the most-photographed helicopter in the world: “Marine One” (VH-3D, a variant of the S-61 “Sea King” model) which is the President’s official helicopter; the 45th US President owns a private Sikorsky S-76B. I have modeled both of these helicopters in LEGO here on MOC-pages.
According to the online Sikorsky archives, “The aircraft was a large twin engine plane capable of carrying a crew of two plus eight or nine passengers with baggage. It sold completely equipped for $55,000. In an early brochure Sikorsky spelled Amphibian with an "o" as a trade mark. The S-38 could takeoff from land or water, climb at 1,000 feet per minute fully loaded, cruise at 110 miles per hour with a maximum speed of 130 miles per hour, and could fly on one engine. No other contemporary amphibian had comparable performance characteristics. Within eight weeks after publication of the official performance data the first series of ten aircraft were sold. Sales to the government, air lines operators and private individuals intensified causing the corporation to reorganize creating the Sikorsky Aviation Corporation in October 3, 1928. The S-38's were operated around the globe pioneering executive travel and establishing many of the first air mail and passenger air routes. It was estimated that S-38's flew over 25,000,000 miles or approximately one thousand times around the World.”
What a challenge to model the S-38 in LEGO! Most models are blocks-upon-blocks, but here the giant wing, tail piece, and two engines are all held up by struts. The bottom of the cabin (the "boat hull") contains inverted pieces, for which I needed ways to interlock LEGO pieces going from “studs up” to “studs down.” As I did with my Martin PBM-5S Mariner model (also on MOC-pages) I tried to ensure overall structural integrity so that if someday this model is built and picked up, it will not fall to pieces. That’s a tall order for such a wide main wingspan and the strut-supported tail pieces, whose weight of pieces holding onto each other over distances has to fight the pull of gravity. I have not yet built this model. The model has 332 LEGO elements and in real life would measure about 14 inches long, 21 inches wide, and 5 inches tall. As with most of my models, this is roughly at mini-fig scale.
Quoting Sam Sanister
I don't think there are enough seaplanes on MOCpages... It is difficult to build a curved hull/fuselage, but you pulled it off nicely!
Thank you! Stay tuned! Very soon I will be posting here another seaplane model (aka "flying boat") that I have been designing this past month. It has over 2900 elements -- very large with lots of interesting detail.