40 Years and 40,000 Hours - Part 2

In the early 1960’s Dick Jackson began his search for a restorable Sikorsky S-39 Flying Boat. On June 8, 2003 Sikorsky S-39 NC-50V flew for the first time since the mid-1940’s to become the only airworthy example of the type and the oldest Sikorsky flying in the world today.

After investigating the whereabouts of all 21 S-39s manufactured (1930-31), Dick asked his friend Steve Rhodes to follow up during his 1964 trip to Alaska on S-39 leads there. In Naknek, 18 miles from King Salmon at the end of the Aleutian chain, Steve inquired about NC-50V, reported to have been damaged and left derelict in 1944/45. Adults in town knew nothing of it, but an 8-year-old Inuit boy led Steve to the childrens’ “clubhouse”, the damaged remains of NC-50V. The hull had been cannibalized over the years; trees had grown in and through the hull and scattered parts.

By truck to King Salmon, bush freight plane to Anchorage (dirt, shrubs and all, lest any valuable piece be missed) and by trailer to home New Hampshire, the remains of 50V were transported to Dick’s , arriving in 1965.

Especially considering the condition of 50V and the many missing parts, Dick’s search continued, including a fruitless (but exciting) Alaskan bush trip in search of NC-809V, lost in an Alaskan lake. Happily, parts from non-salvageable S-39s were found that could at least provide examples of much of what was needed.

Over forty years, with over 40,000 hours of effort by Dick, friends, committed aviation historians and Sikorsky enthusiasts, NC-50V has been restored.

Great effort went into keeping the S-39 structure as original as possible. For example: rivets are nearly exclusively round head, and some were up-set rounded as originally done by Sikorsky. Look at the hull chine and note the rivets are rounded both top and bottom.

All screws are round-head slotted; no gold colored/cadmium were used. All nuts are cotter-pinned; no elastic stop nuts were used. All cables are back spliced, as were the originals. No compression fittings were used. The control wheel is original, disassembled and reglued. Like 50V, most S-39’s had one control wheel, with a stick control on the right side that could be removed when carrying passengers.

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