The Stunning S-38 Sikorsky Flying Amphibian

In the movie The Aviator, Howard Hughes steps off an oddly romantic flying boat after he lands it in a bay and drifts up on the sand to ask an actress out on a date. Just what is this aircraft? Sometimes called “The Explorer’s Air Yacht,” The Sikorsky flying amphibian plane first flew May, 1928 with 110 being constructed. The army ordered a couple and Pan America a whole bunch more. Now in Kermit Week’s hangar, Thomas Schrade’s beautifully built S-38 replica “Osa’a Ark” represents filmakers Osa & Martin Johnson’s S-38 they flew over Africa in the 1930s. This includes all the details in the cabin to the crazy zebra stripes on the exterior. Construction started in 2000 and required over 40,000 man hours to complete.

These photos were taken at OshKosh in 2010 where it was S-38 flew a number of demo flights. Schrade’s S-38 reproduction (now owned by Kermit Weeks) was built with original Sikorsky plans by the late Buzz Kaplan’s “Born Again Restorations,” of Owatonna, Minnesota, along with Sam Johnson’s Carnauba S-38. Johnson used his plane to retrace the 1930s flight made to South America by his father in search of a carnauba palm supply for the family’s business, Johnson Wax. What an amazing piece of aviation history brought to life!