1 June 1961

A Sikorsky S-62, N323Y, at the SFO heliport adjacent to the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco. (Vertical Flight Society)
SFOHA routes

1 June 1961: San Francisco-Oakland Helicopter Airlines (also known as SFO Helicopter Airlines) begins operating scheduled passenger service between San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland Metropolitan Airport (OAK), and the cities of Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland and Palo Alto, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. The company initially used two Sikorsky S-62A helicopters.

Passenger fares ranged from $4.00 to $8.50.

One of the helistops was in the parking lot adjacent to the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco. The noise of the helicopters generated many complaints.

On 13 July, the San Francisco Port Authority warned the airline that it had 30 days to “abate” the noise of the helicopters taking off and landing at the Ferry Building “or to find another location.” After the airline notified the Port Authority that it would acquire quieter, twin-engine Sikorsky S-61N helicopters, the Authority rescinded its removal order on 9 August.

The Palo Alto Times reported:

‘Copter passenger service under way

     San Francisco-Oakland today became the fourth metropolitan area in the United States to get scheduled helicopter passenger service.

     The new San Francisco and Oakland Helicopter Airlines, Inc., this morning inaugurated regular flights linking the San Francisco and Oakland airports with downtown heliports in both cities.

     Approximately 30 daily flights are scheduled between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.

     Flights to Palo Alto, San Jose, Berkeley and Sacramento will be added in the near future.

     Initially the line is flying two turbine-powered Sikorsky S-62 amphibious helicopters. Each helicopter is capable of carrying 10 passengers, plus baggage, at speeds of 100 miles per hour.

     The downtown San Francisco heliport is located on a new site just north of the Ferry Building and adjacent to the World Trade center. The Oakland heliport is near Lake Merritt on 10th Street, next to the Oakland Auditorium and the Exposition Building

     An airlines spokesman said the firm has applied to the Civil Aeronautics Board for authority to carry passengers and cargo between any points within a 100-mile radius of the San Francisco and Oakland airports.

     The firm has plans to acquire a third helicopter which would carry 28 passengers as soon as the traffic load increases, the spokesman said.

     The new service makes the trip between downtown San Francisco and the San Francisco International Airport in eight minutes. Fares for the service range from $4 to $8.50.

     Other cities which already have helicopter passenger service are Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

Palo Alto Times, Vol. 69, No.130, 1 June 1961, Page 10, Columns 6–8

The president of the new company, Mervyn Frances (“Mike”) Bagan, was formerly an attorney for the Civil Aeronautics Board, and vice president of Los Angeles Airways. He also served as the Director of Research for Central Airlines.

San Francisco-Oakland Helicopter Airlines’ Sikorsky S-62A N978 takes of from the main terminal at San Francisco International Airport. (Vertical Flight Society)
SFO Helicopter Airline’s S-62As could carry 10 passengers. (Vertical Flight Society)
Left to right: Captain Bruce F. DeHaas, Vice President-Operations; John J. Cunningham, Vice President; Mervyn F. Bagan, President; Roger E. Hall, Director of Traffic and Sales; Chester M. Schmidt, Director of Maintenance. (Vertical Flight Society)

The S-62A was manufactured by the Sikorsky Aircraft Division of the United Technologies Corporation at Stratford, Connecticut. It is a medium helicopter, flown by two pilots. It could carry ten passengers. The helicopter was powered by a single turboshaft engine. It used the dynamic components of the earlier Sikoprsky S-55 model (main rotor head, main rotor blades, intermediate gear box, tail gear box tail rotor head and blades). The main transmission was modified to bring the turboshaft engine’s r.p.m. to an acceptable speed (85.839:1 gear reduction). Tail rotor drive is 12.274:1 The fuselage features a “boat hull” for water landings.

The helicopter’s main landing gear is retractable into sponsons. The tail wheel is fixed.

Sikorsky S-62 three-view illustration with dimensions. (Sikorsky)

The S-62 has an overall length of 62 feet, 3 inches (18.974 meters) with rotors turning. The fuselage is 45 feet, 5.5 inches (13,856 meters) long and 5 feet, 10 inches (1.778 meters) wide. The three-blade main rotor diameter is 53 feet, 0 inches (16.154 meters), and tail rotor diameter, 8 feet, 9 inches (2.667 meters). It has a maximum height of 15 feet, 11.8 inches (4.872 meters). As is common with American single main rotor helicopters, the main rotor turns counterclockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right side of the helicopter.) The two-blade tail rotor, which is mounted on the left side of the tail boom, turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The S-62A has an empty weight of 5,083 pounds (2,306 kilograms), and maximum gross weight of 8,300 pounds (3,765 kilograms).

The Sikorsky S-62A is powered by one General Electric CT58-110-1 turboshaft engine, offset to the left of the aircraft centerline. The engine has a 10-stage axial-flow compressor, an annular combustion chamber, 2-stage gas producer turbine, a single-stage power turbine. The CT58-110-1’s maximum continuous power rating is 1,050 shaft horsepower (783 kilowatts). The engine is derated to 670 shaft horsepower (500 kilowatts) as installed. This engine is 1 foot, 4 inches (0.406 meters) in diameter and 4 feet, 7 inches (1.397 meters) long. Without the reduction gear box, it weighs 285 pounds (129 kilograms).

The helicopter has two fuel tanks with a total capacity of 325.0 U.S. gallons (1,230.26 liters). The unusable fuel is 1.07 gallons (4.050 liters).

The S-62’s normal cruise speed 85 knots (98 miles per hour/157 kilometers per hour), while its maximum allowable speed (VNE) is 109 knots (125 miles per hour/202 kilometers per hour) with the gross weight below 6,500 pounds (2,948 kilograms). Sideward flight is limited to 25 knots (29 miles per hour/46 kilometers per hour), and rearward, 20 knots (23 miles per hour/37 kilometers per hour). The maximum range is 400 nautical miles (460 statute miles/741 kilometers), and the service ceiling is 11,200 feet (3,414 meters).

A total of 151 Sikorsky S-62s were built. The United States Coast Guard purchased 99 S-62Cs, designated HH-52A. These differed from the commercial variant by having three axis automatic stabilization equipment, LORAN navigation, and a rescue hoist, and a General Electric T58-GE-8 engines rated at 1,250 shaft horsepower (919 kilowatts), derated to 730 shaft horsepower (553 kilowatts). Mitsubishi Heavy Industries built the S-62J variant under license. The HH-52 was in service with the USCG from 1963 until 1989. According to Sikorsky, the HH-52 series has rescued more than 15,000 people while in service with the Coast Guard, far more than any other helicopter type up to that time.

Two S-62As were operated by San Francisco-Oakland Helicopter Airlines. Sikorsky S-62 N978 (serial number 62009) was manufactured in 1960. Its FAA registration was cancelled 18 September 2009. N323Y (serial number 62014) was manufactured in 1961. It was destroyed and its FAA registration cancelled 18 November 1980.

© 2024, Bryan R. Swopes

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