5 February 1962

Lieutenant Robert W. Crafton, U.S. Navy, and Captain Louis K. Keck, U.S. Marine Corps, with the record-setting Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King. (FAI)
Lieutenant Robert W. Crafton, U.S. Navy, and Captain Louis K. Keck, U.S. Marine Corps, with the record-setting Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King. (FAI)

5 February 1962: A Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King (later redesignated SH-3A) became the world’s fastest helicopter by establishing a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed record for helicopters of 339 kilometers per hour (210.645 miles per hour) over a 19 kilometer (11.8 mile) course between Milford and New Haven, Connecticut. The pilots were Lieutenant Robert Wiley Crafton, United States Navy and Captain Louis K. Keck, United States Marine Corps. Both pilots were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the American Helicopter Society’s Frederick L. Feinberg Award.

Having served the United States Navy for 45 years, the Sea King is still in service world-wide, most notably as the VH-3D “Marine One” presidential helicopter.

Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King, Bu. No. 147xxx, modified for the speed record attempt. (FAI)
Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King, Bu. No. 147xxx, modified for the speed record attempt. (FAI)

FAI Record File Num #13121 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: E (Rotorcraft)
Sub-Class: E-1 (Helicopters)
Category: General
Group: 2 : turbine
Type of record: Speed over a straight 15/25 km course
Performance: 339 km/h
Date: 1962-02-05
Course/Location: Stratford, CT (USA)
Claimant Robert Crafton (USA)
Rotorcraft: Sikorsky HSS-2
Engines: 2 G E T-58

The Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King was the first of the S-61 series of military and civil helicopters. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. The fuselage is designed to allow landing on water. The XHSS-2 made its first flight 11 March 1959. The helicopter was originally used as an anti-submarine helicopter.

The HSS-2 is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 16 feet, 10 inches (5.131 meters) high with all rotors turning. The helicopter’s width, across the sponsons, is 16 feet. The main rotors and tail can be folded for more compact storage aboard aircraft carriers, shortening the aircraft to 46 feet, 6 inches (14.173 meters). The main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6¼ inches (0.464 meters). The tail rotor also has five blades and a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.150 meters). They each have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). At 100% NR, the main rotor turns 203 r.p.m. and the tail rotor, 1,244 r.p.m.

The HSS-2 was powered by two General Electric T58-GE-6 turboshaft engines, which had a Normal Power rating of 900 horsepower, and Military Power rating of 1,050 horsepower. The main transmission was rated for 2,300 horsepower, maximum. (Later models were built with more powerful T58-GE-8 engines. Early aircraft were retrofitted.)

The HSS-2 has a cruise speed of 125 knots (143.85 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 135 knots (155.36 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level.  The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267.2 meters). The design maximum gross weight is 16,237 pounds (7,365 kilograms). The HSS-2 had a combat endurance of 4 hours.

In 1962, the HSS-2 was redesignated SH-3A Sea King. Many early production aircraft have remained in service and have been upgraded through SH-3D, SH-3G, etc. In addition to the original ASW role, the Sea Kings have been widely used for Combat Search and Rescue operations. Marine One, the call sign for the helicopters assigned to the President of the United States, are VH-3D Sea Kings. Sikorsky produced the last S-61 helicopter in 1980, having built 794. Production has been licensed to manufacturers in England, Italy, Canada and Japan. They have produced an additional 679 Sea Kings.

Captain Louis K. Keck, USMC (left), and Lieutenant Robert W. Crafton, U.S. Navy, in the cockpit of their Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King. (U.S. Navy)
Captain Louis K. Keck, USMC (left), and Lieutenant Robert W. Crafton, U.S. Navy, in the cockpit of their Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King. (U.S. Navy)
© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes
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