A replica Sikorsky S-38 being positioned for display at AirVenture, Oshkosh in 2006.
Role Amphibious flying boat
National origin United States
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
Designer Igor Sikorsky
First flight 25 May 1928
Introduction October 1928
Primary users Pan American Airways
United States Army
New York, Rio, and Buenos Aires Line
Hawaiian Airlines
Number built 101
Developed from Sikorsky S-34
Sikorsky S-36
Sikorsky PS-3, serving as a transport for the Eleventh Naval district. VJ-5 D11-4 (8285), photographed in March 1930

The Sikorsky S-38 was an American twin-engined ten-seat sesquiplane amphibious aircraft. It was Sikorsky's first widely produced amphibious flying boat, serving successfully for Pan American Airways and the United States military.[1]

Design and development

The S-38 was developed based upon experience with the Sikorsky S-34 and S-36. The S-38 first flew in May 1928. According to Sikorsky, "The ship had very good takeoff characteristics from land and water. It had a climb of 1,000 feet (300 m) per minute fully loaded, and a maximum speed close to 130 miles per hour (210 km/h). The ship could cruise nicely around 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), and it stayed in the air on one engine. All these features were excellent for 1928 and at that time there were no other amphibians with such performance characteristics. In 1929, an S-38 was used by Colonel Lindbergh to inaugurate air mail service between the United States and the Panama Canal." The United States Navy ordered two aircraft, and Pan Am was an early customer.[1]

A total of 101 aircraft were built, manufactured originally by the Sikorsky Manufacturing Corporation of Long Island, New York, and by the Sikorsky Aviation Corporation in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Sikorsky was acquired by United Aircraft and Transport Corporation in mid-production.


A C-6A
11 Built
Ten-place model, 80 Built
12-place model, ten Built
United States Army Air Forces designation for the S-38A for evaluation, one aircraft later used as a VIP transport.
United States Army Air Forces designation for a C-6 with minor changes, ten aircraft.
United States Navy designation for the S-38A, two aircraft later converted to XRS-2 transports.
United States Navy designation for the S-38B, four aircraft later converted to RS-3 transports.
United States Navy designation for two XPS-2 converted as transports.
United States Navy/Marine Corps designation for the S-38B transport version, three aircraft and conversions from PS-3.


Civil operators

Military operators

Private operators

Osa's Ark S-38

Some notable private owners include:


During the 1990s two reproduction S-38s were built by the late Buzz Kaplan's “Born Again Restorations,” of Owatonna, Minnesota.[12] One was produced for Samuel Curtis Johnson Jr., the son of Herbert Fisk Johnson, to recreate his father's flight, which he completed in 1998. As of August 2017 the plane is suspended from the ceiling of Fortaleza Hall in the S. C. Johnson & Son company headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin .[13] The other S-38 replica, N28V, appeared in the movie The Aviator (2004), a story loosely based on the life of Howard Hughes, who owned an S-38 during his lifetime. As of August 2017 it is owned by Kermit Weeks and located at the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, Florida, bearing the Osa's Ark paint scheme.[14][15]

Accidents and incidents

Specifications (S-38-B)

Sikorsky S-38 3-view drawing from NACA Aircraft Circular No.79

Data from Aerofiles : Sikorsky,[20] American flying boats and amphibious aircraft : an illustrated history[21]

General characteristics


See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ a b Sikorsky, Igor (1952). The Story of the Winged-S. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. pp. 167, 180–186.
  2. ^ "Pemotretan Udara di Atas Papua". aviahistoria.com (in Indonesian). 5 August 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  3. ^ "Sikorsky to United"; Time Magazine, July 29, 1929
  4. ^ "About Us | Hawaiian Airlines". www.hawaiianairlines.com. Retrieved 2022-07-27.
  5. ^ Thiele, Ray (1994). Kennedy's Hawaiian Air. Olomana Publishers.
  6. ^ a b c Skyways. Panorama Publications. January 1999. ISSN 1025-2657. ((cite journal)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ "Western Air Express". Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  8. ^ SBHAC – Aviones de la Fuerza Aérea de la República Española
  9. ^ "SC Johnson unveils new architectural showpiece". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. 2010-01-24. ISSN 1085-6706. Retrieved 2010-01-25.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Kamin, Blair (2010-01-27). "Meeting Mr. Wright: Norman Foster's new Fortaleza Hall at S.C. Johnson & Son converses winningly with the old master". Chicago Tribune. ISSN 1085-6706. Archived from the original on 2010-02-02. Retrieved 2011-01-29. In 1935, Herbert F. Johnson, then the company's president, flew the original model of the S-38 from Racine to the Brazilian city of Fortaleza in search of a lasting source of wax from the carnauba palm tree.
  11. ^ Burke, Michael (2008-05-12). "Johnson family's Spirit of Carnauba makes its final flight". The Journal Times. Racine, WI USA. Archived from the original on 2010-09-18. Retrieved 2012-06-16. Their trip re-created one that Fisk and Curt's grandfather, H.F. Johnson Jr., made in 1935. In that journey, he flew to Fortaleza in search of a sustainable source of the carnauba palm tree, then the indispensable ingredient in Johnson Wax.
  12. ^ Peterson, Moose (January 29, 2012). "The Stunning S-38 Sikorsky Flying Amphibian". Warbird Images. Archived from the original on March 23, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  13. ^ Carlsson, Cindy (August 2, 2017). "SC Johnson architecture tour, Racine, Wisconsin". Exploration Vacation. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  14. ^ "See World's Only Flying Sikorsky S-38 at AirVenture". 2012 AirVenture Oshkosh. Oshkosh, WI USA: EAA. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. ((cite web)): External link in |work= (help)
  15. ^ Weeks, Kermit (Aug 18, 2017). Sikorsky S-38 Disassembly - FoF Mechanic's Corner (YouTube).
  16. ^ New York Times: March 25, 1929, March 26, 1929, March 27, 1929, and March 28, 1929
  17. ^ New York Times, Feb. 22, 1937
  18. ^ Pereira, Aldo (1987). Breve História da Aviação Comercial Brasileira (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Europa. p. 337.
  19. ^ Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Uma verdadeira aventura". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928–1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2.
  20. ^ Eckland, K.O. "american airplanes: Sikorsky". aerofiles.com. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  21. ^ Johnson, E.R. (2009). American flying boats and amphibious aircraft : an illustrated history. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. pp. 72–74. ISBN 978-0786439744.
  22. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Retrieved 16 April 2019.

Further reading