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.
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).
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.)
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.
13 March 1977: The Sikorsky S-76A Spirit prototype made its first flight at the company’s Development Flight Center, West Palm Beach, Florida (06FA). This was the number two aircraft, serial number 76002, registered N762SA. Sikorky’s chief pilot, John Dixson, and S-76 program test pilot Nicholas D. Lappos were in the cockpit.
The Sikorsky S-76A is a twin-engine medium helicopter designed to carry up to 12 passengers 400 nautical miles (460.3 statute miles, 740.8 kilometers) for the offshore oil industry. It is flown by two pilots and is certified for instrument flight. The helicopter can be configured to carry up to thirteen passengers.
The S-76 is used as a passenger transport, executive or VIP aircraft, and in law enforcement, search and rescue or military service. It is also widely used as a medical transport.
In 1979, Sikorsky proposed the new helicopter for consideration as the U.S. Coast Guard Short Range Recovery Helicopter, along with competitors Aérospatiale and Bell Helicopter. The S-76 was considered to be the most suitable of the three but the company withdrew before any contract was awarded. The Aérospatiale SA-365 Dauphin variant was finally selected and became the MH-65 Dolphin.
The S-76A has an overall length of 52 feet, 6 inches (16.002 meters) with rotors turning, and overall height of 14 feet, 6 inches (4.420 meters). The S-76A had an empty weight of 7,132 pounds (3,235 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 10,500 pounds (4,763 kilograms).
The four bladed, fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 44 feet, 0 inches (13.411 meters). The main rotor hub is constructed of forged aluminum and uses elastomeric bearings to allow for blade flapping and lead-lag. The blades are made of composite materials formed around a hollow titanium spar. The blade tips are swept to reduce the formation of blade tip vortices. Each blade is 19 feet, 11¾ inches long. The main rotor turns counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) At 107% NR, the maximum speed with power on, the rotor turns 313 r.p.m.
A four-bladed tail rotor with a diameter of 8 feet, 0 inches (2.438 meters) is mounted on the left side of a pylon in a pusher configuration. The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)
The S-76A was originally powered by two Allison 250-C30 turboshaft engines mounted side-by-side, behind the main transmission. The engines were rated at 557 shaft horsepower (maximum continuous power). 100% torque is 564 foot-pounds. Later production models have used Turbomeca and Pratt & Whitney Canada engines.
The S-76A has a cruise speed and maximum speed (VNE) of 155 knots (178 miles per hour, 287 kilometers per hour). (The helicopter’s cruise speed is the same as its maximum.) The service ceiling is 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The maximum altitude for takeoff and landing is 6,900 feet (2,103 meters).
The Sikorsky S-76 remains in production, with more than 1,100 helicopters built. There were 307 S-76A and S-76A+ variants produced, followed by the S-76B, S-76C, -C+ and -C++. The current production model is the S-76D.
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 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.
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.
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.)
1 March 1962: Los Angeles Airways inaugurated scheduled passenger service utilizing twin-engine, turbine-powered helicopters.
Shown in the photograph above is LAA’s Sikorsky S-61L, FAA registration N300Y, at the Disneyland Heliport, Anaheim, California. LAA was the first civil operator of the S-61, purchasing them at a cost of $650,000, each. N300Y was the prototype S-61L, serial number 61031. On 14 August 1968, N300Y suffered a catastrophic main rotor spindle failure and crashed at Leuders Park, Compton, California. All 21 persons aboard were killed.
Los Angeles Airways began operations in 1947 and continued until 1971. It flew Sikorsky S-51, S-55 and S-61L helicopters.
The Sikorsky S-61L was a civil variant of the United States Navy HSS-2 Sea King and was the first helicopter specifically built for airline use. The prototype, N300Y, first flew 2 November 1961. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. Although HSS-2 fuselage is designed to allow landing on water, the S-61L is not amphibious, having standard landing gear rather than the sponsons of the HSS-2 (and civil S-61N).
The S-61L fuselage is 4 feet, 2 inches (1.270 meters) longer than that of the HSS-2. The S-61L is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 16 feet, 10 inches (5.131 meters) high, with rotors turning. The fully-articulated 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 (3.149 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 S-61L was powered by two General Electric CT58-110 turboshaft engines, each of which had a continuous power rating of 1,050 shaft horsepower and maximum power of 1,250 shaft horsepower. The main transmission was rated for 2,300 horsepower, maximum.
The S-61 has a cruise speed of 166 miles per hour (267 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 12,500 feet (3,810 meters). Its maximum takeoff weight is 20,500 pounds (9,298.6 kilograms).
Between 1958 and 1980, Sikorsky built 794 S-61-series helicopters. 13 were S-61Ls.
16 February 1946: The Sikorsky S-51 prototype, NX92800, made its first flight. The test pilot was Dimitry D. (“Jimmy”) Viner, who later made the first civilian rescue using a helicopter. The S-51 was the first helicopter intended for commercial use, though it was also widely used by military services worldwide. (The prototype was later delivered to Aéronavale, French Naval Aviation.)
The S-51 was a commercial version of the Sikorsky R-5 series military helicopters. 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 and 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.) 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 helicopter’s fuselage was 41 feet, 7.5 inches (12.687 meters). The main rotor had a diameter of 48 feet (14.630 meters) and tail rotor diameter was 8 feet, 5 inches (2.2.565 meters) giving the helicopter an overall length of 57 feet, 1 inch (17.399 meters). It was 13 feet, 1.5 inches (4.001 meters) high. The landing gear tread was 12 feet (3.7 meters).
The S-51 had an empty weight of 4,050 pounds (1,837.05 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 5,500 pounds (2,494.76 kilograms). Fuel capacity was 100 gallons (378.5 liters).
The helicopter was powered by a 986.749-cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr. T1B4 (R-985 AN-5) direct-drive, nine-cylinder radial engine which was placed vertically in the fuselage behind the crew compartment. This engine had a compression ratio of 6:1 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 S-51 had a maximum speed (VNE) of 107 knots (123.1 miles per hour/198.2 kilometers per hour). Range was 275 miles (442.6 kilometers). The service ceiling was 14,800 feet (4,511 meters). The absolute hover ceiling was 3,000 feet (914.4 meters).
Of 220 helicopters in the S-51 series built by Sikorsky, 55 were commercial models.