Tag Archives: Helicopter

30–31 March 1979

Sikorsky HH-3E 67-14709 at NMUSAF. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

30–31 March 1979: That Others May Live. On a dark and stormy night in the Yellow Sea, between China and the Korean Peninsula, the 160 foot (49 meter), 3,000 ton (2,722 Metric tons) Taiwanese freighter Ta Lai ran aground. As 20 foot (6 meters) waves battered the stranded ship, rocks punched through the hull. It was taking on water and sinking. Her crew of twenty-eight men were in danger.

Major James E. McArdle, Jr., U.S. Air Force.
Major James E. McArdle, Jr., U.S. Air Force. (Airman Magazine)

Detachment 13, 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, at Osan Air Base, 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Seoul, the capital of the Republic of South Korea, answered the distress call.

Major James E. McArdle, Jr., United States Air Force, and his crew of four, flew their helicopter, “Rescue 709,” a Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, serial number 67-14709, through the darkness and gale-force winds to the stranded vessel. These men were just completing there regular 12-hour duty schedule when the distress call came in, but no other crews or helicopters were available.

In addition to Major McArdle, the aircraft commander, the crew consisted of 1st Lieutenant Van J. Leffler, pilot; Sergeant James E. Coker, flight engineer; Staff Sergeant Tony Carlo and Sergeant Mark Zitzow, pararescue jumpers (“PJs”).

Rescue 709 arrived on scene just before midnight, 30 March. While McArdle and Leffler tried to hold a steady hover over the Ta Lai as it pitched and rolled in the storm, Sergeant Zitzow was lowered 80 feet (24 meters) to the deck. Once there, he assisted the ship’s crew, two at a time, onto the rescue hoist’s jungle penetrator, and after strapping them on, all three were hoisted back to the helicopter. Sergeant Coker, who was controlling the hoist, moved the sailors into the passenger/cargo area of the Jolly Green Giant, and Zitzow was once again lowered to the Ta Lai.

With ten survivors aboard Rescue 709, the helicopter was at its maximum load. Sergeant Zitzow remained aboard Ta Lai. The crew then flew to Kwang-Ju Air Base, 150 miles (241 kilometers) south of Seoul—more than 30 minutes away—to offload the men.

After returning to the rescue scene, Sergeant Zitzow was joined on deck by Sergeant Carlo. While lifting three sailors, the helicopter’s hoist motor overheated and stopped. The sailors were still hanging 50 feet (15 meters) underneath the Jolly Green Giant. The only thing that could be done was to fly to a small island about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away and lower them to the ground. 709 then returned to the ship, by which time the hoist was working again. They picked up several more sailors and with Carlo once again on board, made the flight to Kwang-Ju.

On the third trip, the winds, though still high, were blowing from a more advantageous direction, and the final twelve men, including Zitzow, were quickly picked up. Rescue 709 returned to Kwang-Ju and landed at 0415 hours, 31 March 1979.

For this rescue, Major McArdle was awarded the Mackay Trophy by the National Aeronautic Association, for  the most “meritorious flight of the year” by an Air Force member, members, or organization. He was also awarded another Distinguished Flying Cross. Lieutenant Leffler and Sergeant Coker were awarded the Air Medal, while both Sergeants Zitzow and Coker received the Airman’s Medal.

Sikorsky HH-3E 67-14709 under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, 2010. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-3E 67-14709 under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, 2010. (U.S. Air Force)

67-14709 was built by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation at Straford, Connecticut as a CH-3E transport helicopter and was later converted to the HH-3E configuration. It served the United States Air Force from 3 July 1968 to 19 February 1991.

During the Vietnam War, 709 operated with the 37th ARRS at Da Nang in the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) role. Flying with the call sign “Jolly Green 22,” at least 27 airmen were rescued by this helicopter and its crews.

Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 undergoing restoration at NMUSAF, 2010. (NMUSAF)
Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 undergoing restoration at NMUSAF, 2010. (NMUSAF)

During that period, crewmen assigned to 709 were awarded one Air Force Cross,¹ fourteen Silver Stars (three of these had been nominated for the Air Force Cross) and an unknown number of Purple Hearts. On one mission alone, 709 took hits from at least 68 machine gun bullets.

After Operation Desert Storm, 709 was sent to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona. After 19 years in the desert, in August 2010, she was pulled from storage and sent to the National Museum of the United States Air Force for a 6-month restoration by Museum staff, as well as technical experts from the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlbert Field, Florida.

67-14709 was repainted in the Southeast Asia camouflage pattern. (NMUSAF)
67-14709 was repainted in the Southeast Asia camouflage pattern. (NMUSAF)

Sikorsky HH-3E 67-14709 is on display in the Southeast Asia War Gallery of the Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Colonel McArdle, her pilot during the 1979 rescue mission, was present at 709’s Museum debut, 14 December 2010.

Mackay Trophy winner Colonel James E. McCardle, U.S. Air Force (Retired) speaks at the NMUSAF. His Jolly Green Giant, 67-14709, is behind him. (U.S. Air Force)
Mackay Trophy winner Colonel James E. McCardle, U.S. Air Force (Retired) speaks at the NMUSAF. His Jolly Green Giant, 67-14709, is behind him. (U.S. Air Force)

Colonel James E. McArdle, Jr., was born at LaCrosse, Wisconsin, 2 March 1943. He attended Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, where he competed on the Swimming Team and worked on the student newspaper. He entered the United States Air Force Academy as a cadet in 1961, majoring in engineering management.  Upon graduating from the Academy, 9 June 1965, he was presented the Secretary of the Air Force Award for Behavorial Sciences. McArdle was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, United States Air Force.

2nd Lieutenant McArdle trained as a helicopter pilot at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, finishing at the top of his class. After finishing advanced helicopter training at Sheppard AFB, Texas, McArdle was assigned to the 20th Helicopter Squadron, 14th Air Commando Wing, operating in Southeast Asia, where he flew the Sikorsky CH-3C transport helicopter. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, four Air Medals and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

U.S. Air Force Sikorsky CH-3C, 20th Special Operations Squadron, 14th Air commando Wing. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force Sikorsky CH-3C, 20th Special Operations Squadron, 14th Air Commando Wing. This aircraft is not equipped with a rescue hoist or refueling boom. (U.S. Air Force)

In 1970, McArdle was retrained as a Northrop T-38A Talon pilot and spent the next four years as an instructor and check pilot at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona.

Major McArdle was assigned to the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps from 1974 to 1978. Next, he became the operations officer for Detachment 13, 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Osan Air Base, Korea. During a 12-month period, the detachment saved 80 lives, including those rescued from the Ta Lai.

From 1979 to 1981 Lieutenant Colonel McArdle served at headquarters, Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. While there he developed combat rescue tactics and helped develop the MH-53J Pave Low and MH-60G Pave Hawk special operations helicopters.

Compare this HH-3E to the CH-3C in the photograph above. (U.S. Air Force)
Compare this Sikorsky HH-3E to the CH-3C in the photograph above. The HH-3E has a rescue hoist and spotlight over the door, a refueling boom and external fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force)

As operations officer of the 67th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, McArdle supervised three detachments. Next, Lieutenant Colonel McArdle assumed command of the 41st ARRS at McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, 7 August 1984. At that time, unit’s primary assignment was special operations support, the only helicopter squadron so assigned in the U.S. Air Force.

Colonel McArdle’s final assignment was as Inspector General at McLellan Air Force Base. He retired from the U.S. Air Force on 1 August 1991 after thirty years of service.

An HH-3E of the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group, California Air National Guard hoists two PJs from the Pacific Ocean, 13 April 1977. (TSgt. Richard M. Diaz, U.S. Air Force)
An HH-3E of the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group, California Air National Guard, hoists two PJs from the Pacific Ocean, 13 April 1977. (TSgt. Richard M. Diaz, U.S. Air Force)

The SH-3A Sea King (Sikorsky S-61) first flew 11 March 1959, designed as an anti-submarine helicopter for the U.S. Navy. The prototype was designated XHSS-2 Sea King. In 1962, the HSS-2 was redesignated SH-3A Sea King. Many early production aircraft were 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.

The Sikorsky HH-3E (Sikorsky S-61R) is a development of the SH-3A. It earned the nickname Jolly Green Giant during the Vietnam War. It is a dedicated Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter flown by the U.S. Air Force, based on the CH-3C transport helicopter. The aircraft is flown by two pilots and the crew includes a flight mechanic and gunner. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. It has retractable tricycle landing gear and a rear cargo ramp. The rear landing gear retracts into a stub wing on the aft fuselage. The helicopter has an extendable inflight refueling boom.

A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant refuels in flight from a Lockheed MC-130 Combat Talon. (U.S. Air Force)
A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant refuels in flight from a Lockheed HC-130P Combat King. (U.S. Air Force)

The HH-3E is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 18 feet, 10 inches (5.740 meters) high with all rotors turning. The main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The main rotor turns at 203 r.p.m., counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The tail rotor also has five blades and has a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.150 meters). The blades have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor turns 1,244 r.p.m.

HH-3E three-view illustration (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Beginning in 1928, an American food company began using a cartoon figure to advertise its "Green Giant" brand of canned peas. Eventually the mascot represented The Green Giant Company's other canned and frozen vegetables. The character is now owned by General Mills.
Beginning in 1928, an American food company began using a cartoon figure to advertise its “Green Giant” brand of canned peas. Eventually the mascot represented The Green Giant Company’s other canned and frozen vegetables. The character is now owned by General Mills.

The HH-3E has an empty weight of 13,341 pounds (6,051 kilograms). The maximum gross weight is 22,050 pounds (10,002 kilograms).

The Jolly Green Giant is powered by two General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines, which have a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,400 shaft horsepower, each, and Military Power rating of 1,500 shaft horsepower. The main transmission is rated for 2,500 horsepower, maximum.

The HH-3E has a cruise speed of 154 miles per hour (248 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour (285 kilometers per hour), also at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The HH-3E had a maximum range of 779 miles (1,254 kilometers) with external fuel tanks.

The Jolly Green Giant can be armed with two M60 7.62 mm machine guns.

Sikorsky built 14 HH-3Es. Many CH-3Cs and CH-3Es were upgraded to the HH-3E configuration. Sikorsky built a total of 173 of the S-61R series.

The restored Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, 67-14706, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)
The restored Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, 67-14709, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)

¹ Sergeant Dennis Martin Richardson, United States Air Force

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 March 2000

The first super Jolly Green Giant, 66-14428, now upgraded to an MH-53J Pave Low IIIE, assigned to the 551st Special operations Squadron, 58th Special operations Wing, in flight near Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, 24 March 2000. (U.S. Air Force)
The first Super Jolly Green Giant, Sikorsky HH-53B 66-14428, now upgraded to an MH-53J Pave Low IIIE Enhanced, assigned to the 551st Special Operations Squadron, 58th Special Operations Wing, in flight near Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, 24 March 2000. (Master Sergeant Dave Dolan, U.S. Air Force)

24 March 2000: In flight near Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, is this Sikorsky MH-53J Pave Low IIIE, a “Super Jolly Green Giant” special operations helicopter assigned to the 551st Special Operations Squadron. This helicopter, serial number 66-14428, was the very first HH-53B built. [A photograph of its first flight is posted on TDiA at “15 March 1967”]

66-14428 was sent to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, 7 January 2007, after 40 years of service.
© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes
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12 March 1955

Jean Boulet (1920–2011)
Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet (1920–2011)

12 March 1955:  Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE) Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet and Flight Test Engineer Henri Petit made the first flight of the SE.3130 Alouette II prototype, F-WHHE, at Buc Airfield, near Paris, France.

Powered by a Societé Anonyme Turboméca Artouste II B1 turboshaft engine, the Alouette II was the first gas turbine powered helicopter to enter series production. SNCASE would become Aérospatiale, later, Eurocopter, and is now Airbus Helicopters.

SNCASE SE.3130 Alouette II No. 01 prototype, F-WHHF, with test pilot Jean Boulet and Henri Petit, 12 March 1955. (Eurocopter)
SNCASE SE.3130 Alouette II No. 01 prototype, F-WHHE, with test pilot Jean Boulet and Henri Petit, 12 March 1955. (Airbus Helicopters)

The Alouette II is a 5-place light helicopter operated by a single pilot. The fuselage is 31 feet, 8.5 inches (9.665 meters) long. The landing skids have a width of 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters). With rotors turning, the overall length of the Alouette II is 39 feet, 6.5 inches (12.052 meters). Its height is 9 feet, 0.25 inches (2.750 meters) to the top of the main rotor mast. (Optional wide-track skids, or installation of an Alouette III three-blade tail rotor will change dimensions slightly.)

The three-bladed fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 33 feet, 5.5 inches (10.198 meters). It turns clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the left side of the helicopter.) Normal main rotor speed, NR, is 350–360 r.p.m. In autorotation, the allowable range is 280–420 r.p.m. The two-blade anti-torque rotor is 5 feet, 11.5 inches (1.816 meters) in diameter and turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor turns at 2,020 r.p.m.

The SE.3130 has an empty weight of 1,934 pounds (877 kilograms), depending on installed equipment, and minimum operating weight of 2,050 pounds (930 kilograms). The maximum permissible weight is 3,300 pounds (1,497 kilograms).

SNCASE SE.3130 No. 01, F-WHHE. (Airbus Helicopters)

The prototype was powered by one Turboméca Artouste II B1 turboshaft engine. The Artouste II B1 is a single-shaft turboshaft engine with a single-stage centrifugal flow compressor section and a three-stage axial-flow turbine. The turbine drives both the compressor and an output drive shaft through reduction gearbox. As installed in the Alouette II, the engine was certified for operation at 33,000–34,000 r.p.m (N1), with transient overspeeds to 35,000 r.p.m. It is capable of producing 400 shaft horsepower, but was derated to 360 shaft horsepower at 5,780 r.p.m. (N2) for installation in the Alouette II.

SE.3130 Alouette II three-view illustration with dimensions. (SNCASE)

The helicopter has an economical cruise speed of 92 knots (106 miles per hour/170 kilometers per hour) at 33,000 r.p.m., and a maximum speed (VNE) of 105 knots (121 miles per hour/194 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, which decreases with altitude. Sideward or rearward flight (or operation in tailwinds or crosswinds) is limited to 18 knots (20 miles per hour/33 kilometers per hour).

The Allouette II is limited to a maximum operating altitude of 14,800 feet (4,511 meters). At 1,350 kilograms (2,976 pounds) the Alouette II has a hover ceiling in ground effect, HIGE, of 3,400 meters (11,155 feet) and hover ceiling out of ground effect of 1,900 meters (6,234 feet). At 1,500 kilograms the Alouette II’s HIGE is 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) and HOGE is 600 meters (1,968 feet).

The SE.3130 Alouette was in production from 1956 until 1975. It was marketed in the United States by the Republic Aviation Corporation’s Helicopter Division. More than 1,300 of these helicopters were built.

Jean Boulet hovers the prototype SE.3130 Alouette II, F-WHHF, 12 March 1955. (Eurocopter)
Jean Boulet hovers the prototype SNCASE SE.3130 No. 01, F-WHHE. (Airbus Helicopters)

Jean Ernest Boulet was born 16 November 1920, in Brunoy, southeast of Paris, France. He was the son of Charles-Aimé Boulet, an electrical engineer, and Marie-Renée Berruel Boulet.

He graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in 1940 and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’aéronautique In 1942. (One of his classmates was André Edouard Turcat, who would also become one of France’s greatest test pilots.)

Following his graduation, Boulet joined the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force)and was commissioned a sous-lieutenant. He took his first flight lesson in October. After the surrender of France in the Nazi invaders, Boulet’s military career slowed. He applied to l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique in Toulouse for post-graduate aeronautical engineering. He completed a master’s degree in 1943.

During this time, Boulet joined two brothers with La Resistance savoyarde, fighting against the German invaders as well as French collaborators.

In 1943, Jean Boulet married Mlle Josette Rouquet. They had two sons, Jean-Pierre and Olivier.

In February 1945, Sous-lieutenant Boulet was sent to the United States for training as a pilot. After basic and advanced flight training, Boulet began training as a fighter pilot, completing the course in a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt. He was then sent back to France along with the other successful students.

On 1 February 1947 Jean Boulet joined Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE) as an engineer and test pilot. He returned to the United States to transition to helicopters. Initially, Boulet and another SNCASE pilot were sent to Helicopter Air Transport at Camden Central Airport,  Camden, New Jersey, for transition training in the Sikorsky S-51. An over-enthusiastic instructor attempted to demonstrate the Sikorsky to Boulet, but lost control and crashed. Fortunately, neither pilot was injured. Boulet decided to go to Bell Aircraft at Niagara Falls, New York, where he trained on the Bell Model 47. He was awarded a helicopter pilot certificate by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, 23 February 1948.

Test pilot Jean Boulet (center), with Mme. Boulet and the world-record-setting Alouette II.

As a test pilot Boulet made the first flight in every helicopter produced by SNCASE, which would become Sud-Aviation and later, Aérospatiale (then, Eurocopter, and now, Airbus Helicopters).

While flying a SE 530 Mistral fighter, 23 January 1953, Boulet entered an unrecoverable spin and became the first French pilot to escape from an aircraft by ejection seat during an actual emergency. He was awarded the Médaille de l’Aéronautique.

Jean Boulet was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur in 1956, and in 1973, promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur.

Jean Boulet had more than 9,000 flight hours, with over 8,000 hours in helicopters. He set 24 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for speed, distance and altitude. Four of these are current.

Jean Boulet wrote L’Histoire de l’Helicoptere: Racontée par ses Pionniers 1907–1956, published in 1982 by Éditions France-Empire, 13, Rue Le Sueuer, 75116 Paris.

Jean Ernest Boulet died at Aix-en-Provence, in southern France, 15 February 2011, at the age of 90 years.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 March 1959

Sikorsky XHSS-2 Sea King, Bu. No. 147137, made its first flight at Stratford, CT. (U.S. Navy)
Sikorsky XHSS-2 Sea King, Bu. No. 147137, made its first flight at Stratford, CT. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

11 March 1959: At Stratford, Connecticut, the prototype Sikorsky XHSS-2 Sea King, U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (Bu. No.) 147137, company serial number 61001, makes its first flight. Sikorsky’s Assistant Chief Test Pilot Robert Stewart Decker is at the controls.

The Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King was the first of the S-61 series of military and civil helicopters, designated as HSS-2 until 1962. 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 helicopter was originally used as an anti-submarine helicopter.

HSS-2 mockup, October 1957. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

The HSS-2 is 72 feet, 6 inches (22.098 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 empty weight of the HSS-2 is 10,814 pounds (4,905 kilograms). The overload gross weight is 19,000 pounds (8,618 kilograms).

The main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet, 0 inches (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6¼ inches (0.464 meters). The rotor blade airfoil was the NACA 0012, which was common for helicopters of that time. The total blade area is 222.5 square feet (20.671 square meters), and the disc area is 3,019 square feet (280.474 square 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 first Sea King, prototype XHSS-2 Bu. No. 147137, demonstrates its capability of landing on water. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

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; both ratings at 19,555 r.p.m. at Sea Level. The main transmission was rated for 2,000 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 (144 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 133 knots (153 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 12,100 feet (3,688 meters). The hover ceiling at normal gross weight is 5,200 feet (1,585 meters), out of ground effect (HOGE), and 7,250 feet (2,210 meters), in ground effect (HIGE). The HSS-2 had a combat endurance of 4 hours and a maximum range of 500 nautical miles (575 statute miles/926 kilometers).

The Sea King was primarily an anti-submarine aircraft. It could be armed with up to four MK 43 or MK 44 torpedoes and one MK 101 nuclear-armed depth bomb. Other weapons loads included four MK 14 depth charges and four MK 54 air depth bombs.

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.

A U.S. Navy Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King (S-61), Bu. No. 149867, near Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, 5 April 1976. (PH2 (AC) Westhusing, U.S. Navy)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 March 1965

The flight crew of the Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Dawdling Dromedary, Bu. No. 152104. Left to right, ADJ1 Paul J. Bert, CDR James R. Williford and LT David A. Beil. (FAI)

6 March 1965: A U.S. Navy/Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King helicopter named Dawdling Dromedary, Bu. No. 152104, piloted by Commander James R. Williford and Lieutenant David A. Beil, with Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class Paul J. Bert, took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CVS-12), alongside NAS North Island, San Diego California, at 4:18 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, (12:18 UTC) and flew non-stop, without refueling, to land aboard another aircraft carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), off Mayport, Florida, at 11:10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (04:10 UTC). The distance flown was 3,388.70 kilometers (2,105.64 miles) with an elapsed time of 16 hours, 52 minutes, and set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Without Landing.¹ This exceeded the previous record distance by more than 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).²

CDR James R. Williford climbs aboard the Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King “Dawdling Dromedary,” Bu. No. 152104. (Naval Aviation Museum 1985-105.002b)

On takeoff, Dawdling Dromedary had a gross weight of 23,000 pounds (10,433 kilograms), about 4,000 pounds (1,814 kilograms over its normal operating weight. Its fuel load was 1,690 gallons (6,397 liters) and it had only 60 gallons (227 liters) remaining on landing.

After clearing Guadalupe Pass between Carlsbad, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, (5,414 feet, 1650 meters) the crew shut down one the the SH-3A’s two turboshaft engines in an effort to reduce fuel consumption. They flew on a single engine for 9½ hours, restarting the second engine as they descended through 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) over Jacksonville, Florida.

Commander Williford, head of the Rotary Wing Branch, Flight Test Division, at the Naval Air Test Center, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, was quoted in Naval Aviation News for the May 1965 issue:

“Since weight counted, the heater had been removed. We therefore wore rubber boots, long underwear, etc., but still were thoroughly chilled upon arrival. The temperature at 15,000 feet [4,572 meters] was -11° [-23.9 °C.] that night.

“The C-131 chase aircraft crew was amazed at our accuracy of navigation with a lone omni. Actually, it was such a clear day it was the old type of piloting, that is, ‘just north of that reservoir’ or ‘one mile south of that city,’ etc. We flew through mountain passes until Guadalupe, thence great circle route to Mayport.

“For the trip, +10 knots [18.5 kilometers per hour] tailwind average was needed, and it appeared we weren’t going to make it for the first 8–9 hours because we were behind in our time vs. distance plot. But as we climbed higher—climbing being limited by retreating blade stall—we gained stronger and more favorable winds. By the time we reached Valdosta, Georgia, we had about 35 knots [64.8 kilometers per hour] pushing us. That was a nice feature because the Okefenokee Swamp at night is no place for an autorotation with empty fuel tanks.”

—Commander James R. Williford, United States Navy, Naval Aviation News, May 1965, NavWeps No. 00-75R-3, at Pages 8–9.

The crew of the record-setting Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Dawdling Dromedary, aboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), 6 March 1965. Left to right, ADJ1 Paul J. Bert, Lieutenant David A. Biel, Commander James R. Williford. (U.S. Navy)

Dawdling Dromedary is the same Sikorsky SH-3A, Bu. No. 152104, that set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed record for helicopters of 339 kilometers per hour (210.6 miles per hour), 5 February 1962, flown by Lieutenant Robert W. Crafton, USN, and Captain Louis K. Keck, USMC.³

The Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King was the first of the S-61 series of military and civil helicopters, designated as HSS-2 until 1962. 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 SH-3A is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 16 feet, 10 inches (5.131 meters) high with all rotors turning. 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, 6.25 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 SH-3A 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 SH-3A has a cruise speed of 125 knots (144 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 135 knots (155 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The design maximum gross weight is 16,237 pounds (7,365 kilograms). The SH-3A 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.

Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Bu. No. 14xxxx, the Dawdling Dromedary. (FAI)
Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Bu. No. 152104, the Dawdling Dromedary. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 2179

² FAI Record File Number 2180: 2,170.70 kilometers (1,348.81 miles), set by Captain Michael N. Antoniou, U.S. Army, flying a Bell YUH-1D Iroquois, 60-6029, from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Rogers, Arkansas, 27 September 1964.

³ FAI Record File Number 13121. (See TDiA, 5 February 1962.)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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