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The Last Sikorsky JRS-1 Makes A Move to the Udvar-Hazy Center

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On December 7, 1941, a US Navy squadron consisting of ten Sikorsky JRS-1 amphibious seaplanes was on station in the Hawaiian Islands. Shortly after the Japanese attack that Sunday morning, the planes were launched in an effort to locate enemy submarines and ships near Oahu. Initially not armed, the first missions included riflemen positioned on board near open windows and doors to shoot potential adversaries in case any were discovered. Later, these ten JRS-1 craft were armed with depth charges, one under each wing that could more effectively attack Japanese submarines.

The Sikorsky JRS-1 fuselage arrives at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Smithsonian photo by Mark Avino.

On Tuesday, March 8 at 10:15am, the world’s only surviving JRS-1 (designated S-43 in the civilian world) arrived at the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. After 50 years in preservation storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Suitland, Maryland, this World War II veteran amphibious sea plane finally emerged into the bright Virginia sunshine—and it looks fantastic.

The Sikorsky JRS-1 is backed into the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar. Smithsonian photo by Dane Penland.


Doug Erickson talks to Matt Jolley from Warbird Radio while Public Affairs Specialist, Frank McNally, looks on.

Doug Erickson, of the Museum’s Collections Division, expertly piloted the “Big Blue” truck and flatbed that carried the fifty-one foot long fuselage from Suitland, around the Washington DC beltway, then via Route 66 to the Udvar-Hazy Center. Aside from a bit of a tight squeeze on the entry ramp to 66 and bunches of “gawkers,” the transport went precisely as planned. For Doug, the significance of the object really hits home AFTER the job of safely loading, moving, and unloading is complete. “It goes from being work, to being really cool!”

Collections staff prepare to offload the Sikorsky JRS-1 inside the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar. Smithsonian photo by Dane Penland.


Museum Technician, Pat Robinson, grabs a strap to help steady the aircraft as it is lifted off of the flatbed trailer.

Museum Technician, Pat Robinson, has been assisting with the disassembly and move preparation for the JRS. Others on the team include, Anthony Wallace, Move Project Manager; Tony Carp, JRS Disassembly Lead; Douglas Erickson, JRS fuselage move driver/coordinator; and Scott Wood. Pat mentioned that while the task has been challenging, the sight of the aircraft in the open air for the first time in decades was a highlight of the day. During the process, the team has uncovered much of the original paint scheme and original colors that will one day guide the restoration of the aircraft. The vibrant green used on the vertical tail and the cherry red on the engine cowlings verify that this JRS-1 belonged to the unit commander.

As curator of the JRS-1, the opportunity to get such a significant artifact into the public view has been a major goal. It seems fitting that this historic American aviation artifact will be on public view at some point during this year of the Centennial of Naval aviation, as well as the seventieth anniversary of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.

In what may be the last “flight of the JRS-1” the team steadies the fuselage in preparation for rotating it 180 degrees for display. Smithsonian photo by Dane Penland.

The team poses in front of the Sikorsky JRS-1, resting comfortably in position for display inside the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar.

This aircraft is one of the most historically significant in the national collection and represents a long, proud heritage of aviation in the U.S. Navy. Moving the JRS-1 to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar will allow the National Air and Space Museum to utilize the most modern facilities available to improve the long-term preservation of treasures like the JRS-1.

Dik Daso is curator of Modern Military Aircraft in National Air and Space Museum’s Aeronautics Division.

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9 thoughts on “The Last Sikorsky JRS-1 Makes A Move to the Udvar-Hazy Center

  1. Hi,
    Fantastic effort for a real American treasure!

    Is this a complete aircraft and is it in line for a total restoration? If it is, what is the time frame for completeion?

    Bset regards,
    Mitch London
    Pembroke Pines, FL

  2. Mitch,

    The JRS-1 is complete but needs extensive restoration, particularly the interior. There are no established plans to begin restoration in the immediate future. The JRS-1 was moved to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar so that the visiting public will be able to view the artifact, a Pearl Harbor survivor, once the facility opens to the public later this year.

  3. Matt,

    Thanks for your reply. However, I do feel that given this aircraft’s historical significance, it should be given serious consideration for full and complete restoration sooner rather than later.

    I can just imagine standing next to her, there in the Museum, knowing that she was on the ramp witnessing history on that “Day of Infamy”.

    I’m proud of what the Museum stands for and what you and your staff is able to accomplish on behalf of all greatful Americans such as myself.

    God Bless and keep up the good work. You inspire us all.

    Mitch London
    Pembroke Pines, Florida

  4. MY FATHER WAS SQUADRON COMMANDER OV V.J. SQUADRON ONE AT THE TIME OF THE PEARL HARBOR ATTACK, DECEMBER7, 1941, AND HIS ASSIGNED JRS-1 WAS 1-J-1 WITH THE GREEN TAIL.

    THE PEARL HARBOR AVIATION MUSIUM HAS BEEN TRYING TO FIND A RESTORED JRS-1 FOR THE MUSEUM AT MY REQUEST, AS GTHE HANGAR THEY USE FOR THE MUSEUM IS THE HANGAR USED BY V.J. SQUADRON ONE ON FORD ISLAND. I UNDERSTAND THE AIR FORCE MUSEUM AT WRIGHT PATTERSON HAS A JRS-1?

  5. MR. Richards,
    Though the USAAF did operate the Sikorsky S-43/JRS under the designation OA-8 and OA-11, the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson which displays its predecessors types sadly does not have an example of a S-43/JRS.
    The NASM has the sole surviving example of a Military Sikorsky JRS-1. #1063 did of course proudly serve with your fathers (who’s service is highly appreciated) VJ-1.
    The USMC owns a ex-airliner S-43 displayed at the Pima Air Museum in Arizona and is painted to represent 2-MJ-4 s/n 4325 which served with the Marine Corps.
    The ex-Howard Hughes S-43 s/n 4327 survives in private hands in Texas and is reported to be for sale.
    There is also a forward fuselage section with the Alaskan Aviation Heritage Museum and is believed to be an ex-Reeve Aleutian aircraft.
    The Sikorsky S-43/ JRS-1 is a rare bird indeed

  6. My family and I were at Udvar yesterday and saw her in the Restoration wing. She has her landing gear, wings and engines all mounted back on her body and is looking great.

  7. I had the pleasure to visit the museum on April 29. 2013. My very best regards to all people who carefully renovate and display these old historic aircraft. Does anyone know the cn and sn of the Sikorsky?
    Johnny Comstedt, Norway.

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