5 August 1950: The first rescue of a downed airman by a flying boat during the Korean War occurred when Ensign Glenn T. Farnsworth, United States Navy, a pilot of VF-113 (“Stingers”) from the aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) was forced to ditch in the ocean following an air attack on North Korea.
On VF-113’s first combat mission of the war, Ensign Farnsworth’s Vought F4U-4B Corsair, Bureau Number 63018, was damaged in a mid-air collision with another Corsair, Bu. No. 63938, piloted by Ensign John F. Kail, USN. Ensign Kail’s F4U crashed and he was killed. Unable to gain sufficient altitude to bail out, Farnsworth elected to ditch his Corsair into the Yellow Sea, approximately 15 miles south of Kunsan Air Base. Kunsan had been captured by North Korean soldiers just over three weeks earlier.
Other aircraft of VF-113 called for rescue for the downed pilot. The Rescue Coordination Center in Japan contacted a flying boat, call sign “Dumbo”, and directed it to the scene. The Grumman SA-16A Albatross, a twin-engine amphibian of Detachment E, 5th Air Rescue Squadron, under the command of Captain Charles E. Schroeder, United States Air Force, along with an escort of three North American F-51 Mustang fighters, proceeded to the area. Schroeder landed on the water to pick up Ensign Farnsworth.
After his rescue, Ensign Farnsworth said “It was a smooth operation. I was confident all the time I was in the water that I would be picked up, but I was mighty glad to see those U.S. Air Force planes out there.” He returned to duty with VF-113. Glenn Farnsworth was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service with VF-113, 5 August 1950–1 December 1950.
4 August 1950: During the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter, wounded soldiers were evacuated from the battlefield by helicopter for the first time when a Sikorsky H-5F of Detachment F, 3rd Emergency Rescue Squadron,¹ Air Rescue Service, United States Air Force, flew Private 1st Class Claude C. Crest, Jr., U.S. Army, from the Sengdang-ni area to an Army hospital. By the end of combat in 1953, 21,212 soldiers had been medevaced by helicopters.
Only the second military helicopter, the H-5 was frequently flown overloaded and outside of its center of gravity limits. The helicopter was not armed, though the pilot normally carried an M1911 .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, and the crewman, a .30-caliber M1 Carbine.
Eleven commercial Sikorsky S-51 helicopters had been purchased by the Air Force in 1947 and designated R-5F. This was later changed to H-5F. It was a four-place, single-engine helicopter, operated by one pilot. The cabin was built of aluminum with Plexiglas windows. The fuselage was built of plastic-impregnated plywood, and the tail boom was wood monocoque construction. The main rotor consisted of three fully-articulated blades built of metal spars and plywood ribs, covered with two layers of fabric. (All metal blades soon became available.) The three bladed semi-articulated tail rotor was built of laminated wood. The main rotor turned counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Its normal operating range was 175–195 r.p.m. The tail rotor was mounted on the helicopter’s left side in a pusher configuration. It turned clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)
The helicopter’s fuselage was 41 feet, 1¾ inches (12.541 meters) long. The main rotor had a diameter of 48 feet, 0 inches (14.630 meters) and the tail rotor diameter was 8 feet, 5 inches (2.565 meters),² giving the helicopter an overall length of 57 feet, ½ inch (17.386 meters) with rotors turning. It was 12 feet, 11–3/8 inches (3.947 meters) high. The tricycle landing gear had a wheel base of 10 feet, 1 inch (3.073 and the tread was 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters). The S-51 had an empty weight of 4,050 pounds (1,837 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 5,300 pounds (2,404 kilograms) below 1,000 feet (305 meters) MSL.³ Fuel capacity was 100 gallons (379 liters).
The H-5F was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 986.749-cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-985 AN-5 (Wasp Jr. T1B4 ) which was placed in the fuselage behind the crew compartment with the crankshaft vertical. The R-985-AN-5 was a direct-drive, nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6:1. It required 91-octane aviation gasoline and was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., Standard Day at Sea Level. The R-985 AN-5 was 48.00 inches (1.219 meters) long, 46.25 inches (1.175 meters) in diameter and weighed 684 pounds (310.3 kilograms) with a magnesium crankcase.
The H-5F had a maximum speed (VNE) of 107 knots (123 miles per hour/198 kilometers per hour). Range was 275 miles (443 kilometers). The service ceiling was 14,800 feet (4,511 meters). The absolute hover ceiling was 3,000 feet (914 meters).
¹ Reorganized as the 3rd Air Rescue Squadron 10 August 1950.
² An 8 foot, 9 inch (2.667 meter) all-metal two-blade tail rotor assembly became standard with the H-5G, and was available to retrofit earlier helicopters.
³ The maximum gross weight had to be reduced 150 pounds (68 kilograms) for each additional 1,000 feet of altitude.