Tag Archives: Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe

30 December 1968

Chief Warrant Officer James P. Ervin, United States Army (FAI)
Chief Warrant Officer 4 James P. Ervin, United States Army (FAI)
CW4 William T. Lamb

30 December 1968: At the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation plant at Stratford, Connecticut, Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Paul Ervin, Jr., United States Army, set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Time to Altitude while flying a Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe. The helicopter’s co-pilot for this flight was CW4 William T. Lamb. The “Sky Crane” reached 3,000 meters (9,842.52 feet) in 1 minute, 38.2 seconds, and 9,000 meters (29,527.56 feet) in 7 minutes, 54 seconds.¹ (It climbed through 6,000 meters (19,686 feet) in 2 minutes, 58.9 seconds.²)

Several attempts to break the existing time to altitude records had been made on 29 and 30 December. Erwin decided to deviate from Sikorsky’s recommended climb profile and, instead, climbed vertically until reaching 20,000 feet, and then returned to Sikorsky’s profile.

On the same date, CW4 Lamb, with Erwin as co-pilot, established a World Record for Altitude in Horizontal Flight, of 9,596 meters (31,483 feet).³

According to an article in U.S. Army Aviation Digest, during the record attempt flights, the regional air traffic control center called a commercial airliner which was cruising at 17,000 feet,

“. . . be advised there’s a helicopter at your 9 o’clock position descending out of 27,000 feet at a rate of 4,000 feet per minute.”

The airliner replied, “Good lord, you mean they’re up here now?”

Another pilot on the frequency asked, “What kind of helicopter is that?”

Mr. Ervin was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his achievement.

A third U.S. Army aviator involved in the record attempts was Major James H. Goodloe, as was a Sikorsky test pilot, John J. Dixon.

FAI record-setting Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe (FAI)
FAI record-setting Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe (FAI)

The Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe is a large single-main-rotor/tail rotor helicopter, specifically designed to carry large external loads. In U.S. Army service, it had a crew of five: pilot, co-pilot, third pilot and two mechanics. The third pilot was in a rear-facing cockpit position and flew the helicopter while it was hovering to pick up or position an external load.

The CH-54A is 88 feet, 5.9 inches (26.972 meters) long and 25 feet, 4.7 inches (7.739 meters) high. The main rotor has six blades and turns counter-clockwise, seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) The main rotor has a diameter of 72 feet (21.946 meters). The main rotor blades have a chord of 1.97 feet (0.601 meters) and incorporate a twist of -13°. The tail rotor has four blades and is placed on the left side of a vertical pylon in a pusher configuration. The tail rotor turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The diameter of the tail rotor is 16 feet (4.877 meters). The chord of the tail rotor blade is 1.28 feet (0.390 meters).

The helicopter has an empty weight of 19,120 pounds (8,673 kilograms) a design gross weight of 38,000 pounds (17,237 kilograms) and overload gross weight of 42,000 pounds (19,051 kilograms).

Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe 68-18448, Nevada National Guard, 16 November 1989. (Mike Freer/Wikipedia)

The CH-54A is powered by two Pratt & Whitney JFTD12A-4A (T73-P-1) turboshaft engines, each rated at 4,000 shaft horsepower at 9,000 r.p.m. (N2) maximum continuous power at Sea Level, and 4,500 shaft horsepower at 9,500 r.p.m. (N2) for takeoff, 5-minute limit, or 30 minutes, with one engine inoperative (OEI). The maximum gas generator speed (N1) is 16,700 r.p.m. The T73-P-1 is an axial-flow free-turbine turboshaft engine with a 9-stage compressor section, 8 combustion chambers and a 4-stage turbine section (2-stage gas generator and 2-stage free turbine). It is 107.0 inches (2.718 meters) long, 30.0 inches (0.762 meters) in diameter, and weighs 966 pounds (438 kilograms). The helicopter’s main transmission is limited to a maximum 6,600 horsepower.

It has a useful load of 22,880 pounds (10,342 kilograms) and can carry a payload of 20,000 pounds (9,072 kilograms) from a single point cargo hoist.

The CH-54A has a maximum cruise speed of 115 knots (132 miles per hour, 213 kilometers per hour). It’s range is 217 nautical miles (250 miles,  402 kilometers). The CH-54A has a hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of 10,600 feet (3,231 meters) and its service ceiling is 13,000 feet (3,962 meters).

The U.S. Army ordered 54 CH-54A and 35 CH-54B Tarhes. Sikorsky produced another 12 civil-certified S-64E and S-64F Skycranes. Army CH-54s were retired from service in 1995. Sikorsky sold the type certificate to Erickson Air-Crane, Inc., Medford, Oregon. Erickson operates a fleet of Skycranes for heavy lift, logging and fire fighting, and also produces parts and new helicopters for worldwide customers.

The United States Army has a tradition of using Native American names for its aircraft. Tarhe (pronounced tar-HAY) was a famous chief, or sachem, of the Wyandot People of North America, who lived from 1742–1818. He was very tall and the French settlers called him “The Crane.”

James Paul Ervin, Jr., was born 2 October 1931, in Arkansas. He was the second child of James Paul Erwin and Ruth Booker Ervin. He joined the United States Army in 1948. In 1955, he married his wife, Theresa M. (“Terry”) Ervin. They resided in Columbus, Georgia.

CW4 Ervin was considered a pioneer of Army Aviation. He was one of the first pilots to experiment with armed helicopters, and he served with the first transportation company to be equipped with the Sikorsky CH-34 Choctaw and CH-37 Mohave helicopters. During the Vietnam War, he was assigned to the 478th Aviation Company (Heavy Helicopter). Mr. Ervin retired from the United States Army in July 1969 after 21 years of service.

At 1735, 2 September 1969, as a civilian pilot working for ERA Helicopters in Alaska, Ervin was flying a Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane, N6964E, on the North Slope near Prudhoe Bay, when the helicopter broke up in flight and crashed near a drilling site, Southeast Eileen. Chief Erwin and two others aboard, Byron Davis and Allen Bryan, were killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that a tail rotor pitch control link failed due to a fatigue fracture. The NTSB accident report also cited improper factory installation as a factor.

At the time of the accident, Erwin had a total of 4,787 flight hours with 830 hours in type. He was 37 years old. James Paul Erwin, Jr., is buried at the Marietta National Cemetery, Marietta, Georgia.

An Erickson Air-Crane, Inc. Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane drops water on a forest fire. (Sikorsky Archives)
An Erickson Air-Crane, Inc., Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane drops water on a forest fire. (Igor I. Sikorsky Historical Archives)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 9944 and 9961.

² Many sources state that CW4 Erwin set a record for Time to 6,000 meters, and some give the elapsed time as 3 minutes, 31.5 seconds. The FAI Records Database does not list this record.

³ FAI Record File Number 9919.

© 2017 Bryan. R. Swopes

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9 May 1962

Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane N325Y, s/n 64001. (John Daniel)

9 May 1962: The Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, N325Y, prototype of a heavy-lift helicopter, made its first flight at Stratford, Connecticut. The Skycrane was a turbine-powered evolution of the piston-engined S-60. The United States Army bought six S-64s for evaluation, and then ordered 54 production aircraft, designated CH-54A Tarhe, and 35 CH-54Bs. Sikorsky produced 12 S-64E and Fs for the commercial helicopter market.

The Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe is a large single-main-rotor/tail rotor helicopter, specifically designed to carry large external loads. In U.S. Army service, it had a crew of five: pilot, co-pilot, third pilot and two mechanics. The third pilot was in a rear-facing cockpit position and flew the helicopter while it was hovering to pick up or position an external load.

FAI record-setting Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe (FAI)

The CH-54A is 88 feet, 5.9 inches (26.972 meters) long and 25 feet, 4.7 inches (7.739 meters) high. The main rotor has six blades and turns counter-clockwise, seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) The main rotor has a diameter of 72 feet (21.946 meters). The main rotor blades have a chord of 1.97 feet (0.601 meters) and incorporate a twist of -13°. The tail rotor has four blades and is placed on the left side of a vertical pylon in a pusher configuration. The tail rotor turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The diameter of the tail rotor is 16 feet (4.877 meters). The chord of the tail rotor blade is 1.28 feet (0.390 meters).

The helicopter has an empty weight of 19,120 pounds (8,673 kilograms) a design gross weight of 38,000 pounds (17,237 kilograms) and overload gross weight of 42,000 pounds (19,051 kilograms).

The CH-54A is powered by two Pratt & Whitney JFTD12A-4A (T73-P-1) turboshaft engines, each rated at 4,000 shaft horsepower at 9,000 r.p.m. (N2) maximum continuous power at Sea Level, and 4,500 shaft horsepower at 9,500 r.p.m. (N2) for takeoff, 5-minute limit, or 30 minutes, with one engine inoperative (OEI). The maximum gas generator speed (N1) is 16,700 r.p.m. The T73-P-1 is an axial-flow free-turbine turboshaft engine with a 9-stage compressor section, 8 combustion chambers and a 4-stage turbine section (2-stage gas generator and 2-stage free turbine). It is 107.0 inches (2.718 meters) long, 30.0 inches (0.762 meters) in diameter, and weighs 966 pounds (438 kilograms). The helicopter’s main transmission is limited to a maximum 6,600 horsepower.

It has a useful load of 22,880 pounds (10,342 kilograms) and can carry a payload of 20,000 pounds (9,072 kilograms) from a single point cargo hoist.

The CH-54A has a maximum cruise speed of 115 knots (132 miles per hour, 213 kilometers per hour). It’s range is 217 nautical miles (250 miles,  402 kilometers). The CH-54A has a hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of 10,600 feet (3,231 meters) and its service ceiling is 13,000 feet (3,962 meters).

The United States Army has a tradition of using Native American names for its aircraft. Tarhe (pronounced tar-HAY) was a famous chief, or sachem, of the Wyandot People of North America, who lived from 1742–1818. He was very tall and the French settlers called him “The Crane.”

Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe 68-18448, Nevada National Guard, 16 November 1989. (Mike Freer/Wikipedia)

N325Y, the prototype Sikorsky S-64, was damaged beyond repair in an accident near Arboles, California, 19 August 1968. The FAA registration was cancelled.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 March 1966

Major Bernard F. Fisher, United States Air Force, in the cockpit of a Douglas A-1E Skyraider. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Bernard F. Fisher, 1st Air Commando Squadron, United States Air Force, in the cockpit of a Douglas A-1E Skyraider, 1966. (U.S. Air Force)

 MEDAL OF HONOR

MAJOR BERNARD F. FISHER, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

Major Bernard F. Fisher, United States Air Force, with D.W. Myers, 10 March 1966. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Bernard F. Fisher, United States Air Force, with Major Dafford W. Myers, 10 March 1966. The airplane is Major Fisher’s Douglas A-1E Skyraider, 52-132649. (U.S. Air Force)

Bernard Francis (“Bernie”) Fisher was born at San Bernardino, California, 11 January 1927. He was the son of Bruce Leo Fisher, a farmer, and Lydia Lovina Stoddard Fisher. He attended Davis High School, Kuna, Idaho.

Bernie Fisher served in the United States Navy from 10 February 1945 to 16 March 1946. He was an Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class (AMM 1c). He was discharged following the end of World War II. Fisher attended Boise Junior College, Boise, Idaho from 1947 to 1949, and at the same time, served with the Air National Guard.

Mr. Bernard Francis Fisher married Miss Realla Jane Johnson at Salt Lake City, Utah, 17 March 1948. They would have six children.

Fisher transferred the University of Utah, where he was a cadet in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force in 1951.

Fisher flew fighters in the Air Defense Command. He twice landed a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter following a complete engine failure. In 1965, Major Fisher volunteered for service in Vietnam, where he flew 200 combat missions. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the Battle of A Shau, one day prior to the Medal of Honor action.

President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to Major Fisher at a ceremony in the White House, 19 January 1967. Fisher was the first to receive the newly-designed U.S. Air Force version of the Medal of Honor.

Colonel Fisher retired in 1974.

In 1999, the chartered U.S. Military Sealift Command container ship MV Sea Fox was renamed MV Maj. Bernard F. Fisher (T-AK-4396). The  41,000 ton ship remains in service.

Colonel Fisher died 16 August 2014, at Boise, Idaho, at the age of 87 years. He was buried at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.

Major Bernard Francis Fisher, United States Air Force. (United States Air Force 050311-F-1234P-101)

The United States Navy and Marine Corps adopted the Douglas Aircraft Company AD-1 Skyraider just after the end of World War II. The U.S. Air Force recognized its value as a close air support attack bomber, but it wasn’t until the early months of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War that a number of Skyraiders were transferred to the U.S.A.F.

These aircraft were identified by Department of the Navy, Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers, commonly referred to as “bureau numbers,” or “bu. no.” Once acquired by the Air Force, the two-digit fiscal year number in which the airplane was contracted was added to the bureau number, resulting in a serial number with a format similar to a standard U.S.A.F. serial number. For example, Major Fisher’s Skyraider, A-1E 52-132649, was originally U.S. Navy AD-5 Skyraider Bu. No. 132649, authorized in 1952. (The Douglas AD series was redesignated A-1 in 1962.)

While its engine idles, Douglas A-1E Skyraider 52-132649 is reamermed, Vietnam, 1966. (U.S. Air Force via Warbird Information Exchange)
While its engine idles, Douglas A-1E Skyraider 52-132649 is rearmed, South Vietnam, 1966. (U.S. Air Force via Warbird Information Exchange)

The Douglas AD-5 Skyraider was  designed as a two-place, single-engine, antisubmarine warfare aircraft. A low-wing monoplane with conventional landing gear, it has folding wings for storage aboard aircraft carriers. With two pilots seated side-by-side, the AD-5’s fuselage is both wider and longer than earlier AD-series aircraft. Two ASW mission specialists were seated in the aft cabin. In 1962, the AD-5 was re-designated A-1E.

The side-by-side cockpit arrangement of Bernard Fisher's Douglas A-1E Skyraider, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)
The side-by-side cockpit arrangement of Bernard Fisher’s Douglas A-1E Skyraider, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)

The AD-5/A-1E Skyraider is 40 feet, 0 inches long (12.192 meters) with a wingspan of 50 feet, ¼ inch (15.246 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 9½ inches (4.816 meters). The wings have a total area of 400.3 square feet (37.19 square meters). Its empty weight is 12,293 pounds (5,576 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 25,000 pounds (11,340 kilograms).

The A-1E is powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, direct-fuel-injected, 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter), Wright Aeronautical Division R-3350-26WA (Cyclone 18 836C18CA1) twin-row 18-cylinder radial engine, with water/alcohol injection. This engine has a compression ratio of 6.71:1. The R-3350-26W has a Normal Power rating of  2,300 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and a Takeoff/Military Power rating of 2,700 horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m., using 115/145 aviation gasoline. The engine drives a four-bladed Aeroproducts constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters) through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The engine is 4 feet, 7.62 inches (1.413 meters) in diameter and 6 feet, 6.81 inches (2.002 meters) long. It weighs 2,848 pounds (1,292 kilograms), dry.

Bombs are loaded aboard Douglas A-1E Skyraider 52-132649 between missions, South Vietnam, 1966. (U.S. Air Force via Warbird Information Exchange)
Bombs are loaded aboard Douglas A-1E Skyraider 52-132649 between missions, South Vietnam, 1966. (U.S. Air Force via Warbird Information Exchange)

The A-1E Skyraider has a cruise speed of 170 knots (196 miles per hour/315 kilometers per hour), a maximum speed of 283 knots (326 miles per hour/524 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level with combat power (3,150 horsepower); and 286 knots (329 miles per hour/527 kilometers per hour) at 15,200 feet (4,633 meters). The service ceiling is 26,400 feet (8,047 meters). Carrying a 4,500 pound (2,041 kilogram) bomb load, its range is 524 miles (843 kilometers).

The A-1E is armed with four 20 mm M3 autocannon, with two in each outboard wing, and 200 rounds of ammunition per gun. The Skyraider can carry a combination of external fuel tanks, gun pods, bombs or rockets on 15 hardpoints. The maximum bomb load is 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms).

Douglas A-1E Skyraider 52-132649 after crash-landing. (U.S. Air Force)
Heavily damaged Douglas A-1E Skyraider 52-132649 after crash-landing near Cần Thơ, Republic of South Vietnam, 21 March 1965. Both pilots, Captains Jerry Pavey Hawkins and William Henry Campbell, were killed. (U.S. Air Force)

Douglas AD-5 Skyraider Bu. No. 132649 (c/n 9506) was built for the U.S. Navy by the Douglas Aircraft Company at El Segundo, California, in 1952. It was redesignated as an A-1E in 1962, and transferred to the U.S. Air Force in 1963.

52-132649 was hit by ground fire and crash landed near Cần Thơ, Republic of Vietnam, 21 March 1965. Both pilots, Captains Jerry Pavey Hawkins and William Henry Campbell, were killed.

The airplane was considered salvageable. It was picked up by a Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe and transported to Tân Sơn Nhứt Air Base near Saigon, where it was repaired and then returned to service with the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Biên Hòa Air Base in November 1965.

Major Bernard F. Fisher, right, checks the status of an A-1 Skyraider with his crew chief, Technical Sergeant Rodney L. J. Souza, at Pleiku Air Base, 1966. (U.S. Air Force)

52-132649 was next assigned to the 1st Air Commando Squadron, 14th Air Commando Wing, at Pleiku Air Base. The Skyraider was returned to the United States in 1967 and was retired from service in January 1968. It was ferried from Hurlburt Field, Florida, to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, where it was put on display.

Major Bernard F. Fisher's Douglas A-1E Skyraider, serial number 52-132649, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Bernard F. Fisher’s Douglas A-1E Skyraider, serial number 52-132649, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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