13 June 1962: At Mono Lake, California, Captain Richard H. Coan, United States Air Force, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing with a specially prepared Kaman HH-43B Huskie, serial number 60-0263. With cowlings, doors and unneeded internal equipment removed—including brake lines to the rear wheels—the helicopter had an empty weight of just 5,300 pounds (2,404 kilograms).
Flying along a 12-mile (19.3 kilometer) section of California Highway 167 (Pole Line Road) on the north shore of the lake, Captain Coan flew 27 laps in just over seven hours, until the Huskie ran out of fuel and settled to the pavement in a low-altitude autorotation. Without brakes and with the rear wheels locked, the helicopter rolled off the side of the roadway, but came to a stop before ending up in a ditch. The total distance flown was 1,055.16 kilometers (655.65 miles), a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing.¹
This same helicopter, flown by Captain Chester R. Radcliffe, Jr., set an FAI World Record for Distance Without Landing when he flew it from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to Springfield, Minnesota, 5 July 1962.²
In 1962, the HH-43B was the largest and fastest helicopter in the Air Force inventory. A turboshaft engine drove a unique system of counter-rotating and intermeshing rotors to provide lift, thrust and directional control. The counter-rotation cancelled the torque effect so no anti-torque, or tail, rotor was necessary. This allowed all of the engine’s power to drive the main rotor system.
The Huskie was used by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, primarily for short range rescue operations. It was operated by two pilots and two rescue crewmen.
The fuselage of the H-43 was 25.0 feet (7.62 meters) long. Each rotor had a diameter of 47.0 feet (14.33 meters). The helicopter’s empty weight was 5,900 pounds (2,676 kilograms) and its maximum gross weight was 7,100 pounds (3,221 kilograms).
The H-43B was powered by one Lycoming T53-L-1B turboshaft engine, rated at 860 shaft horsepower at 21,510 r.p.m. The engine uses a 5-stage axial-flow, 1 stage centrifugal-flow, compressor with a single stage gas producer turbine and single-stage power turbine. A reverse-flow combustion section allows significant reduction in the the engine’s total length. The power turbine drives the output shaft through a 3.22:1 gear reduction. The T53-L-1 is 3 feet, 11.8 inches (1.214 meters) long and 1 foot, 11.0 inches (0.584 meters) in diameter. It weighs 460 pounds (209 kilograms).
The Huskie’s maximum speed was 107 miles per hour (172 kilometers per hour). Its hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) and it had a range of 250 miles (402 kilometers).
Captain Coan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the record flight. Later as a major, he commanded Detachment 8, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, at Cam Ranh Bay Air Base during the Vietnam War. He retired from the Air Force at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
With the call sign Pedro, the HH-43 was a rescue helicopter that served in combat during the Vietnam War.
The record-setting Kaman HH-43B Huskie 60-0263 was last assigned to Detachment 3, 42nd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Its distance record still stands.
¹ FAI Record File Number 1258
² FAI Record File Number 13208
© 2017, Bryan R. Swopesby