A dream of inventors since Leonardo da Vinci was to have an aircraft rising and landing vertically on rooftops. It became a reality in Queens in 1938.
Key development of the helicopter took place in the backyard of a home at 45-31 Davis St. in Long Island City, in the heart of the business district and only a few steps from the elevated structure of the IRT’s Flushing line.
The postage stamp “airport” here was home to The Helicopter Corporation of America, originally the Air-Screw Re-search Syndicate. The company consisted of two Russians, engineer George de Bothezat (1882-1940) and his partner and test pilot, Capt. Boris Sergievsky (1888-1971). They made their first test flight in 1938
Sergievsky was a famous World War I flying ace in the Russian Imperial Army who became a test pilot for aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky. After leaving Sikorsky he partnered up with De Bothezat and was anxiously working out the bugs of their SV-2 helicopter on Davis Street. He built a larger one, the SV-5, that was to be fitted with machine guns and put into production. De Bothezat died at age 57 and did not get to see his partner fly the new SV-5.
That may have been just as well, as the copter crashed, proving the design to be unstable. It was not mass produced.
Many residents of LIC had no idea of the innovations being made before their eyes, and today’s residents mostly have no idea that a little test airport was once here, with great inventions being tested right in their own backyard.