Sikorsky Firefly is the electric helicopter that has been built but never flown. How do such histories happen?

If the design looked so unsafe that there was not enough courage of trying, why this was not discovered much earlier? If they changed they mind, lost the investor, why not to try at least once anyway if there is already a machine standing ready to power up? Is there any certification for even the first ever flight a prototype may fail to pass?

Stories like "a single prototype was tested but not more ordered" look much more logical (they did not like it after the tests).

What are the most usual reasons behind the "built, never flown" histories?

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    $\begingroup$ Just a guess: Inspired by Tesla, Management wanted an electric vehicle, too. That worked well until first flight: Unlike the press, physics cannot be cheated, even with massive marketing budgets. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 20:59

1 Answer 1


The director of Sikorsky Innovations Chris Van Buiten called it a

technology demonstrator and research platform that will let us explore the technology, partnerships and technical collaboration...

On 2010 July 29 Verticalmag.com reported

First flight is anticipated later this year, upon completion of ground tests and safety of flight reviews in accordance with Sikorsky standard practice for all aircraft programs.

It vanished from the news a few months later.

Ten years later, it may be hard to get someone from Sikorsky Innovations to speak on the record about Firefly's abandonment, something that the company might consider embarrassing. But it seems likely that some ground tests failed (cooling? software?), and either the partnerships with the companies providing the batteries, motor, software, etc., weren't important enough to the company (or its owner, Lockheed Martin?) to address those defects, or its other projects became more important.

  • $\begingroup$ Also, actual airborne tests require a lot more testing and certification, so it's not just a simple matter of taking a prototype and sticking a test pilot in. I guess they didn't deem it worth the investment. $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ Looks like, indeed, the company has a "safety of flight reviews" after the prototype has been built and not just after the drawing is finished. $\endgroup$
    – h22
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 22:39

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