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Sikorsky VS-44A 'Excambian'
Courtesy the National Museum of Naval Aviation
"Excambian" is the only surviving aircraft of three built by Sikorsky for non-stop trans-Atlantic service. It was delivered in May, 1942 and flew its first passenger-carrying flight on June 22, 1942 painted in Navy camouflage. The flying boat carried priority passengers and freight under contract to the U.S. Navy and Army until December 31, 1944.
In 1967, Charles Blair, who was the Chief Pilot on the first test flight of the flying boats and the husband of actress Maureen O'Hara, was able to purchase Excambian for Antilles Air Boats to ferry passengers among the Virgin Islands. In 1969 it was extensively damaged beyond economic repair.
In 1976, the Blair’s donated the plane to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, FL. With permission from Ms. O’Hara who was now widowed, the Navy in 1983 transferred the aircraft to the New England Air Museum on permanent loan. Excambian was then shipped by barge from the Gulf of Mexico to Bridgeport, CT.
A massive restoration project was begun in 1987 by a team of volunteers, with Sikorsky support, to bring this historic craft to displayable condition. Many of the volunteers were Sikorsky retirees who had worked on the original construction of the planes. Ten years later, in 1997, the fuselage was relocated to the Museum where it was reunited with its other major components and where it is now displayed along with several other significant Sikorsky aircraft.
Today, Excambian is the sole remaining American-built commercial trans-oceanic four-engine flying boat.
Take a look inside the VS-44A's cockpit from our panorama page.