Tag Archives: Helicopter

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, 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)

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”]

A variant of the United States Navy/Marine Corps CH-53A Sea Stallion, the Super Jolly Green Giant was the largest, most powerful, and fastest helicopter in the United States Air Force inventory. Configured for combat search and rescue (CSAR) and special operations, the HH-53B was equipped for inflight refueling and was armed with three General Electric GAU/2A 7.62 mm miniguns or .50-caliber Browning machine guns. Over the decades, HH-53B 66-14428 was upgraded to HH-53H, then Pave Low II, HH-53J Pave Low III and finally to MH-53J Pave Low III Enhanced configuration.

The Super Jolly Green Giant has an overall length of 88 feet, 2.4 inches (26.833 meters) with rotors turning. With the refueling boom extended, the total length of the helicopter is 91 feet, 11.34 inches (28.025 meters). The fuselage is 67 feet, 2.4 inches (20.483 meters) long and 8 feet (2.438 meters) wide. The HH-53B had an overall height of 24 feet, 10.8 inches (7.590 meters).

The MH-53J’s six-bladed main rotor had a diameter of 72 feet, 2.7 inches (22.014 meters) and turns counter-clockwise, seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) At 100% NR, the rotor turns 185 r.p.m. The tail rotor has four blades and a diameter of 16 feet, 0 inches (4.877 meters). It is positioned on the left side of a vertical pylon, or fin, in a pusher configuration. The tail rotor turns clockwise at 792 r.p.m., as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)

The MH-53J has an empty weight of 32,000 pounds (14,515 kilograms). Its maximum takeoff weight (wartime) is 50,000 pounds (22,680 kilograms). 66-14428 was originally equipped with two General Electric T64-GE-3 turboshaft engines, producing 3,080 shaft horsepower, each. These were later upgraded to T64-GE-100 engines, increasing power to 4,330 shaft horsepower.

The helicopter has a maximum speed (VNE) of 143 nautical miles per hour (165 miles per hour, 266 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). It’s range is 591 nautical miles (680 miles, 1,094 kilometers) and is capable of inflight refueling.

The Air Force ordered eight HH-53B and 58 improved HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giants. Throughout their service lives, the Super Jolly Green Giants were continuously upgraded.

66-14428 was sent to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, 7 January 2007, after 40 years of service.
© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes
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15 March 1967

Sikorsky HH-53B 66-14428, Super Jolly Green Giant, first flight at Stratford, Connecticut, 15 March 1967. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
Sikorsky HH-53B 66-14428, Super Jolly Green Giant, first flight at Stratford, Connecticut, 15 March 1967. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

15 March 1967: The first Sikorsky HH-53B, 66-14428, made its maiden flight at Stratford, Connecticut. At the controls was Sikorsky test pilot James R. (“Dick”) Wright. The helicopter would be called the “Super Jolly Green Giant.”

A variant of the United States Navy/Marine Corps CH-53A Sea Stallion, the Super Jolly Green Giant was the largest, most powerful, and fastest helicopter in the United States Air Force inventory. Configured for combat search and rescue (CSAR) and special operations, the HH-53B was equipped for inflight refueling and was armed with three General Electric GAU/2A 7.62 mm miniguns or .50-caliber Browning machine guns. Over the decades, 428 was upgraded to HH-53H, then Pave Low II, HH-53J Pave Low III and finally to MH-53J Pave Low III Enhanced configuration.

U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53B Super Jolly Green Giant in flight near the Sikorsky plant at Stratford, Connecticut. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53B Super Jolly Green Giant in flight near the Sikorsky plant at Stratford, Connecticut. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

The HH-53B Super Jolly Green Giant was flown by two pilots and was crewed by a flight engineer/gunner, and two pararescue jumpers (“PJs”). It has an overall length of 88 feet, 2.4 inches (26.833 meters) with rotors turning. With the refueling boom extended the total length of the helicopter is 91 feet, 11.34 inches (28.025 meters). The fuselage is 67 feet, 2.4 inches (20.483 meters) long and 8 feet (2.438 meters) wide. The HH-53B had an overall height of 24 feet, 10.8 inches (7.590 meters).

A gunner looks over a General Electric GAU2/A minigun, while his aircraft flies formation with a Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant over Southeast Asia. (U.S. Air Force)
A flight engineer looks over a General Electric GAU-2/A minigun while his helicopter flies formation with a Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant of the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Vietnam, October 1972. (Ken Hackman, U.S. Air Force)

The HH-53B’s six-bladed main rotor had a diameter of 72 feet, 2.7 inches (22.014 meters) and turns counter-clockwise, seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) At 100% NR, the rotor turns 185 r.p.m. The tail rotor has four blades and a diameter of 16 feet, 0 inches (4.877 meters). It is positioned on the left side of a vertical pylon, or fin, in a pusher configuration. The tail rotor turns clockwise at 792 r.p.m., as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)

Two Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giants of the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing fly in formation over Goose Bay, Canada, 11 June 1978. 68-8284 is the ship closest to the camera, painted gray. (TSgt. Robert C. Leach/U.S. Air Force)
Two Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giants of the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing fly in formation over Goose Bay, Canada, 11 June 1978. 68-8284 is the ship closest to the camera, painted gray. (TSgt. Robert C. Leach/U.S. Air Force)

The HH-53B had an empty weight of 26,500 pounds (12,020 kilograms). Its maximum takeoff weight was 42,000 pounds (19,051 kilograms). HH-53B was originally equipped with two General Electric T64-GE-3 turboshaft engines, producing 3,080-shaft horsepower, each. The helicopter has a maximum speed (VNE) of 130 nautical miles per hour (150 miles per hour, 241 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 16,750 feet (5,105 meters). It’s range is 540 nautical miles (621 miles, 1,000 kilometers) and is capable of inflight refueling.

The Air Force ordered eight HH-53B and 58 improved HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giants. The first HH-53B was delivered to the Air Force on 12 November 1967. The HH-53B can be visually identified by the two diagonal sponson support struts on each side of the fuselage.

66-14428 was sent to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, 7 January 2007 after nearly 40 years of service.

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 Speciqal operations Wing, in flight near Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, 24 March 2000. (U.S. Air Force)
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. The diagonal struts above each outboard fuel tank show its HH-53B origins. (Master Sergeant Dave Dolan, U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, 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, or Sud Aviation) 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 IIB1 turboshaft engine, the Alouette II was the first gas turbine 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 9.66 meters (31 feet, 9 inches) long. The three-bladed fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 10.20 meters (33 feet, 6 inches). 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. The two-blade anti-torque rotor is 1.81 meters (9 feet, 11.25 inches) in diameter and turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) It turns at 2,020 r.p.m.

The SE.3130 has an empty weight of 895 kilograms (1,973 pounds) and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 1,600 kilograms (3,527 pounds).

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

The prototype was powered by one Turboméca Artouste IIB1 turboshaft engine. The Artouste IIB1 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. The engine operates at 33,500 r.p.m (N1), and is capable of producing 400 shaft horsepower. It was derated to 360 shaft horsepower at 5,780 r.p.m. (N2) for installation in the Alouette II.

The helicopter has a cruise speed 175 kilometers per hour (109 miles per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 185 kilometers per hour (115 miles per hour) at Sea Level. VNE is 195 kilometers per hour (121 miles per hour.)

The service ceiling is 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) at 1,500 kilograms (3,307 pounds) gross weight. The absolute ceiling is 4,500 meters (14,764 feet). 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 Boulet was born 16 November 1920, in Brunoy, southeast of Paris, France. He graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in 1940 and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’aéronautique In 1942. As an officer of the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) he was sent to the United States for training as a fighter pilot, and later as a helicopter pilot. In 1947 he  joined Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE) as an engineer and test pilot. As a test pilot he made the first flight in every helicopter produced by SNCASE, which would become Sud-Aviation and later Aérospatiale (then, Eurocopter, and now, Airbus Helicopters). He set 24 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for speed, distance and altitude. While flying a SE 530 Mistral fighter, 23 January 1953, he entered an unrecoverable spin and became the first French pilot to escape from an aircraft by ejection seat during an actual emergency. Médaille de l’Aéronautique. In 1972 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’honneur. He had more than 9,000 flight hours with over 8,000 hours in helicopters.

Jean Boulet died at Aix-en-Provence, 15 February 2011, at the age of 90.

© 2017, 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.

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 first Sea King, prototype XHSS-2 Bu. No. 147137, demonstrates its capability of landing on water. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

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.

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)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 March 1965

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)
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)

6 March 1965: A U.S. Navy/Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King helicopter named Dawdling Dromedary, 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 at 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

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.

The flight crew of the Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Dawdling Dromedary, Bu. No. 14xxxx. (FAI)
The flight crew of the Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Dawdling Dromedary, Bu. No. 14xxxx. Left to right, ADJ1 Paul J. Bert, CDR James R. Williford and LT David A. Beil. (FAI)

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.

Dawdling Dromedary is the same Sikorsky SH-3A 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. 14xxxx, 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.)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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