Tag Archives: World Record for Distance Without Landing

9–14 April 1985

The world record-setting Sikorsky S-76 Mark II, N1545X. The helicopter’s paint scheme has been updated since the world record flights in 1985. (MyFlightbook)

9–14 April 1985: Allison Gas Turbine Chief Test Pilot Frederick Jack Schweibold, along with company pilots Harry B. Sutton and R. Frederick (“Fritz”) Harvey, set a series of thirteen Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for speed and distance, flying a Sikorsky S-76 Mark II, N1545X, which had been leased from Petroleum Helicopters, Inc., of Lafayette, Louisiana.

Contemporary news reports were that Schweibold and his crew, in addition to several PHI pilots, had actually set 15 speed, distance, and altitude records, but only thirteen world records are shown in the FAI’s online records database. The additional records may have been U.S. national records, but This Day in Aviation has been unable to confirm this with the National Aeronautic Association.

The Indianapolis Star reported:

(Frank Espich, The Indianapolis Star, 16 April 1985, Page 1, Columns 1–3)

Local Pilots set 15 world records in helicopter with Allison engine.

By Patricia Hagen


     Three local pilots set 15 world records in a commercial helicopter in two days, stopping only to refuel while flying more than 7,000 miles over the United States and Canada.

     The team from Allison Gas Turbine Division of General Motors Corp. started the marathon trip Friday evening in Lafayette, La. They set coast-to-coast, non-stop, altitude and speed records before inclement weather forced an early landing Sunday night in St. Louis.

     The trio was tired but excited when they finished the trip Monday afternoon at the Indianapolis Heliport in the Sikorsky S-76 Mark II helicopter powered by an Allison engine.

     The trip in the yellow and black craft was flawless, except for the early landing, said Jack Schweibold, Allison’s chief test pilot, who was dressed in tan coveralls and a company baseball cap.

     His teammates in the 35-foot helicopter were R. Frederick “Fritz” Harvey of Indianapolis, director of small-engine programs, and Harry B. Sutton of Pittsboro, staff pilot. The men have been involved in other record-setting flights in small airplanes and helicopters.

     The records set on this trip were for the heavy weight class of helicopters. The Allison team averaged 150 mph between Dallas and Montreal, Quebec, shattering the old record of 104 mph.

     On the way to Canada, they flew a record 950 miles non-stop before refueling in Toledo, Ohio.

     Then they cut several hours off the East Coast-to-West Coast record for this class of helicopters, going from New York City to Los Angeles in 19 hours, which included three stops for fuel.

     They also established speed records for climbs to 10,000 feet an 15,600 feet, said Schweibold, the official recorder on the flight.

     The records must be verified by the National Aeronautic Association in conjunction with the French aeronautics federation, the bodies that oversee challenges to air and space records. The pilots will receive awards at the Paris Air Show in June.

     The pilots managed only a few hours of sleep between turns at the controls of the helicopter, which could seat 14 passengers on a typical commercial flight.

     The only alteration to the $2.3 million helicopter for the weekend trip was a modified fuel tank, which added 200 gallons to the original 300 gallon capacity. About 4,100 gallons of aircraft fuel were burned in the 46 hours of flying time, the pilots estimated.

     The point of the record-setting blitz was to show the versatility of the Allison engine.

     “You can take a standard, stock Allison engine and expect to get championship performance,” Schweibold said.”We treated it like a stock Chevrolet.”

     The Allison model 250 engine is about the size of a car engine but develops 650 horsepower. The flight showed that it performs safely and with little maintenance even when used to challenge world records, Harvey said.

     “We’re bringing world-class aviation records to Indianapolis,” Harvey said. The Allison turbine engine division is proud of its reputation as a leader in engineering power plants for helicopters and turbo prop aircraft, he added.

     The trio of pilots plan to try for two other records before returning the aircraft, which they borrowed from Petroleum Helicopters Inc. in Lafayette, La., Harvey said.

     Over a 100-mile diameter circuit in Indianapolis,they will attempt an air speed record over 650 miles. They will also try to set a distance record on the course, which will entail going about 900 miles without stopping, Schweibold said.

The Indianapolis Star, Tuesday, 16 April 1985, Page 6, Columns, 1–3

The Indianapolis News,16 April 1985 at Page 26

In his own Internet blog, Jack Schweibold wrote that he picked up Harvey and Sutton in New York City before proceeding west to Los Angeles, with fuel stops at Indianapolis (8A4), Wichita (ICT), and Albuquerque (ABQ). The fuel stops took only about ten minutes each. They flew at 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) when crossing over the San Jacinto Mountains, east of Los Angeles, then passed overhead of the Seal Beach VORTAC (SLI) on the coastline south of Los Angeles.

While making a rapid descent to refuel at Riverside Airport (RAL), passing through 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), they heard two booms from the rear compartment. They checked the helicopter while refueling and everything seemed to be fine. They only filled the auxiliary tanks part way at Riverside, as they expected tail winds on the eastward leg.

The next fuel stop was at Saint Louis, Missouri. (Jack wrote that they didn’t land at Lambert Field (STL) because of adverse weather conditions, but did not specify where in St. Louis they did refuel.) They delayed their takeoff for New York waiting for improved weather conditions. When they finally went out to the helicopter, they found the S-76 surrounded by a pool of jet fuel about 200 feet (61 meters) across.

The two “booms” that the crew heard while descending in to RAL were caused by the auxiliary fuel tanks rupturing. They hadn’t leaked during the subsequent flight because the fuel level was kept below the fractures.

Jack’s full article can be found at: https://jetav.com/15-s76-records-set-in-week/

The records set by Schweibold, Harvey and Sutton were in the FAI’s Class E Rotorcraft, Sub-Class E-1 Helicopters, segments.

9 April 1985:

Speed Over A 3 Kilometer Course: 312,15 kilometers per hour (193.96 miles per hour), Lafayette, Louisiana. Leslie E. White, F. J. Schweibold, Arthur S. Chadbourne III. FAI Record File Number 1838

Speed Over A Straight 15-to-25 Kilometer Course: 304,73 kilometers per hour (189.35 miles per hour), Lafayette, Louisiana. Vernon E. Albert, F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 1839

Time To Climb To A Height of 3 000 Meters (9,843 feet): 6 minutes, 16 seconds, Lafayette, Louisiana. Joseph R. Bolen, Harry B. Sutton, Bruce A. Schneider. FAI Record File Number 1851

12 April 1985:

Speed Over A recognized Course, Dallas, Texas, to Indianapolis, Indiana. 268,56 kilometers per hour (166.88 miles per hour). F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 2067

Distance Without Landing, Dallas, to Toledo, Ohio. 1 508,91 kilometers (937.59 statute miles). F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 1823

13 April:

Speed Over a Recognized Course, Dallas to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 255,96 km/h (159.05 m.p.h.) F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 2068

Speed Over a Recognized Course, Indianapolis to Montreal. 244,44 km/h (151.89 m.p.h.).  F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 2069

Speed Over a Recognized Course, New York, New York, to Indianapolis. 261,36 km/h (162.40 m.p.h.). F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 2070

14 April:

Speed Over a Recognized Course, Indianapolis to Wichita, Kansas. 254,88 km/h (158.38 m.p.h.) F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 2071

Speed Over a Recognized Course, Indianapolis to Albuquerque, New Mexico. 225,36 km/h (140.03 m.p.h.) F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 2072

Speed Over a Recognized Course, Indianapolis to Los Angeles, California. 202,68 km/h (125.94 m.p.h.) F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 2073

Speed Over a Recognized Course, Wichita to Los Angeles. 197,28 km/h (122.58 m.p.h.) F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 2074

Speed Over a Recognized Course, New York to Los Angeles. 209,52 km/h (130.19 m.p.h.) F.J. Schweibold. FAI Record File Number 2075

A 1984 advertisement for the Sikorsky S-76 Mark II. (Sikorsky Aircraft)

N5145X (s/n 760050) was a Sikorsky S-76 Mark II, an improved version of the original S-76A. There were more than 40 modifications to improve reliability and maintainability. In addition to new helicopters, the Mark II modifications were available as kits to update earlier S-76As.

The Mark II is a twin-engine intermediate class helicopter that can be configured to carry 6 to 12 passengers. It is used as an executive transport, a scheduled passenger airliner, utility transport, search and rescue aircraft and air ambulance. The helicopter is certified for instrument flight and has retractable tricycle landing gear.

The prototype was rolled out at Stratford, Connecticut, on 11 January 1977 and the first flight took place on 13 March. It was certified in 1978 and the first production aircraft was delivered to Air Logistics, 27 February 1979.

Cutaway illustration of a Sikorsky S-76A. (Sikorsky Archives)

The S-76A is 52 feet, 6 inches (16.00 meters) long with rotors turning. The fuselage has a length of 43 feet, 4.43 inches (13.219 meters) and a width of 8 feet (2.44 meters). The helicopter’s overall height is 14 feet, 5.8 inches (4.414 meters). The four bladed composite main rotor is 44 feet (13.41 meters) in diameter. The blades are attached to a one-piece forged aluminum hub and use elastomeric bearings. As is customary with American helicopters, the main rotor turns counter-clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The four-bladed tail rotor has a diameter of 8 feet (2.438 meters) and turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) It is mounted in a pusher configuration on the left side of the tailboom. The tail rotor is constructed of composite airfoils mounted to graphite spars.

The S-76 Mark II was equipped with two Allison 250-C30S turboshaft engines. The -C30S was capable of producing 650 shaft horsepower, but was derated to 557 shaft horsepower when installed in the S-76. Subsequent S-76 variants have been built with Turbomeca Arriel 1S and 2S engines, as well as Pratt & Whitney PT6B-3A and PW210S engines.

The S-76 has an empty weight of 7,007 pounds (3,178 kilograms). The S-76A maximum gross weight was 10,500 pounds (4,763 kilograms). Beginning with the S-76B, this was increased to 11,700 pounds (5,307 kilograms).

The Sikorsky S-76 has a maximum cruise speed of 155 knots (287 kilometers per hour). It can hover in ground effect (HIGE) at 7,050 feet (2,149 meters) or out of ground effect (HOGE) at 3,300 feet (1,006 meters). The service ceiling is 13,800 feet (4,206 meters).

The helicopter was designed with offshore oil support as a major consideration. It was intended to carry 2 pilots and 12 passengers 400 nautical miles (460 statute miles, or 741 kilometers). Maximum range with no reserve is 411 nautical miles (473 statute miles/762 kilometers).

Sikorsky built 307 S-76As. More than 850 of all variants have been built. The current production model is the S-76D.

N1545X’s FAA registration was cancelled 7 December 2016. The current status of the helicopter is not known. (TDiA did inquire with PHI, but the company did not respond.)

Petroleum Helicopters’ Sikorsky S-76 Mark II, N1545X. (Charlie Mauzé. Image used with permission.)

Jack Schweibold is currently credited with 29 FAI world flight records in both airplanes and helicopters.

Frederick Jack Schweibold was born at Toledo, Ohio, 8 November 1935, the son of Henry E. (a fire extinguisher salesman) and Jeanette Schweibold. He attended Thomas A. De Vilbiss High School, then Ohio State University where he majored in engineering. He had enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve in 1952 and then joined the United States Air Force as an Aviation Cadet in 1954.

Jack Schweibold with a North American Aviation T-28A Trojan.

Schweibold went through pilot training at Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, flying the T-34 and T-28. He went on to train in the B-25 at Reese Air Force Base, Lubbock, Texas. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and received his pilot’s wings in July 1957. In a momentary decision, he selected helicopter training.

Frederick Jack Schweibold married Miss Sharon Crouse at Toledo, Ohio, 27 December 1957.

Lieutenant Schweibold flew the Sikorsky H-19B for the U.S.A.F. Air Rescue Service, assigned to Oxnard Air Force Base, California (now Camarillo Airport, CMA).

Air Rescue Service Sikorsky H-19A Chicasaw 51-3850. (AR.1999.026)

After leaving the Air Force, Jack flew Sikorsky S-55s for Chicago Helicopter Service, then Bell 47s for Butler Aviation. In 1960, he was hired by the Allison Division of General Motors as a test pilot and engineer for the new 250-series turboshaft engine.

A Chicago Helicopter Airways Sikorsky S-55.

Jack Schweibold is the author of In The Safety Of His Wings: A Test Pilot’s Adventure, published in 2005.

Jack was inducted into the Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame in 2022.

I have had the good fortune to know Jack Schweibold. I first met him through his involvement in the Helicopter Association International’s biennial flight instructor re-certification seminars, held during the HAI’s annual conventions. He kept the seminar classes on track, and in between, was always available for questions. Jack was the authority on Allison’s 250-series turboshaft engines, and over the years I have often called him for technical information and operational advice. On top of that, Jack Schweibold is just an all-around nice guy. It has been a pleasure to know him.

Jack Schweibold

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

6–7 April 1966

Test pilot Bob Ferry in teh cockpit of YOH-61 62-4213, with engineer Dick Lofland, before the non-stop coast-to-coast flight. (Hughes Aircraft)
Test pilot Bob Ferry in the cockpit of Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213, with engineer Dick Lofland, before the non-stop coast-to-coast flight. (Hughes Aircraft)

6–7 April 1966: Chief Test Pilot Robert G. Ferry of Hughes Tool Company’s Aircraft Division flies the number three prototype YOH-6A, 62-4213, from the company airport at Culver City, California, non-stop to Ormond Beach, Florida, a distance of 3,561.55 kilometers (2,213.04 miles). Bob Ferry set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance Without Landing.¹ All three records still stand.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1966. (FAI)
Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1966. (FAI)

Bob Ferry took off at the Hughes Airport at Culver City (just north of LAX) at 2:20 p.m., Pacific Time. The aircraft twas so heavily loaded with fuel that the test pilot exceeded the engine’s torque limit by 21% just to get airborne. When he established a climb he reduced the power to “red line.” During the entire flight he kept the engine at 105% N2 (a 2% overspeed). He landed after 15 hours, 8 minutes of flight.

On 26 March 1966, Allison Engine Company test pilot Jack Schweibold flew the same YOH-6A  to set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing of 2,800.20 kilometers (1,739.96 miles).² One week earlier, 20 March, Jack Zimmerman had set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing of 1,700.12 kilometers (1,056.41 miles).³ Fifty-one years later, these four World Records also still stand.

Robert George Ferry was born 29 November 1923 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, the second child of Lucius M. and Charlotte E. Ferry. He developed an interest in aviation during his teen years. Ferry earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern University. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 and graduated from flight training at Luke Filed, Arizona, in 1945.

Ferry trained as a helicopter pilot at San Marcos Army Air Field, Texas, flying Sikorsky R-5 and R-6 helicopters. After graduation Lieutenant Ferry was assigned to Panama.

In 1947, Robert Ferry married Miss Marti Holt of Austin, Texas. They remained together for 62 years.

Bob Ferry flew 90 combat missions in helicopters during the Korean War. In 1954, he was accepted to the U.S. Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School, Class 54C, at Edwards Air Force Base. (One of Ferry’s classmates was future X-15 pilot, Robert M. White.)

Assigned as a test pilot Bob Ferry flew the McDonnell XV-1 Convertiplane compound helicopter with pressure jet rotor drive and the Bell XV-3, an experimental “tiltrotor.” On 6 January 1959, he completed the conversion from helicopter to airplane mode. He also flew the Hughes XV-9A, an experimental high-speed helicopter, which also used tip jets to drive the rotor. After six years as a test pilot at Edwards, Ferry was assigned to duties in Germany. He retired from the Air Force in 1964 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Robert G. Ferry, Chieft Test Pilot, Hughes helicopters.
Robert G. Ferry, Chief Test Pilot, Hughes Helicopters. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

In 1966, Robert Ferry became chief test pilot at the Hughes Tool Company Aircraft Division at Culver City, California. He tested the OH-6A light observation helicopter and the AH-64 Apache at the Hughes facility at Palomar Airport in north San Diego County. During this time Ferry earned a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of San Diego.

Bob Ferry retired from Hughes Helicopters after 18 years. He had flown approximately 10,800 hours in 125 different aircraft. About 8,000 hours were in helicopters. He had been awarded the Iven C. Kincheloe Award for 1959 by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the Igor I. Sikorsky International Trophy for his transcontinental record flight, and the 1967 Frederick L. Feinberg Award by the American Helicopter Society.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Ferry, United States Air Force (Retired) died at his home in San Marcos, California, 15 January 2009 at the age of 85 years.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4211 in its configuration during the three-way LOH competitive testing. (U.S. Army)
Hughes YOH-6A 62-4211, the first prototype, in its configuration during the three-way LOH competitive testing. (U.S. Army)

The Hughes Model 369 was built in response to a U.S. Army requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (“L.O.H.”). It was designated YOH-6A, and the first aircraft received U.S. Army serial number 62-4211. It competed with prototypes from Bell Helicopter Company (YOH-4) and Fairchild-Hiller (YOH-5). All three aircraft were powered by a lightweight Allison Engine Company turboshaft engine. The YOH-6A won the three-way competition and was ordered into production as the OH-6A Cayuse. It was nicknamed “loach,” an acronym for L.O.H.

The YOH-6A was a two-place light helicopter, flown by a single pilot. It had a four-bladed, articulated main rotor which turned counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Stacks of thin stainless steel “straps” fastened the rotor blades to the hub and were flexible enough to allow for flapping and feathering. Hydraulic dampers controlled lead-lag. Originally, there were blade cuffs around the main rotor blade roots in an attempt to reduce aerodynamic drag, but these were soon discarded. A two-bladed semi-rigid tail rotor was mounted on the left side of the tail boom. Seen from the left, the tail-rotor rotates counter-clockwise. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.)

Overhead photograph of a Hughes YOH-6. Note the blade cuffs. (U.S. Army)
Overhead photograph of a Hughes YOH-6A. Note the blade cuffs. (U.S. Army)

The YOH-6A was powered by a T63-A-5 turboshaft engine (Allison Model 250-C10) mounted behind the cabin at a 45° angle. The engine was rated at 212 shaft horsepower at 52,142 r.p.m. (102% N1) and 693 °C. turbine outlet temperature for maximum continuous power, and 250 shaft horsepower at 738 °C., 5-minute limit, for takeoff. Production OH-6A helicopters used the slightly more powerful T63-A-5A (250-C10A) engine.

The Hughes Tool Company Aircraft Division built 1,420 OH-6A Cayuse helicopters for the U.S. Army. The helicopter remains in production as AH-6C and MH-6 military helicopters, and the MD500E and MD530F civil aircraft.

Hughes YOH-6A 62-4213 is in the collection of the United States Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama.

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 784, 785 and 11655.

² FAI Record File Numbers 786, 787 and 11656.

³ FAI Record File Number 762.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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)

[Co-pilot David A. Beil was killed 12 March 1969 while testing a Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne compound helicopter. See TDiA at: https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/12-march-1969/ ]

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

27 September 1964

Captain Michael N. Antoniou with YUH-1D 60-6029. (FAI)

27 September 1964: Captain Michael N. Antoniou flew the number two Bell YUH-1D-BF Iroquois, 60-6029, Bell Helicopter serial number 702, from Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California, non-stop to Rogers, Arkansas. The distance flown was 2,170.70 kilometers (1,348.81 miles), and established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Without Landing.¹

Captain Antoniou was a project test pilot assigned to the U.S. Army Aviation Test Activity at Edwards.

60-6029 was modified by Bell to reduce aerodynamic drag and weight. The windshield wipers, door handles, main rotor stabilizer bar and associated dampers, tail rotor drive shaft cover and 42° gear box cover had been removed. Gaps at the doors, crew steps, tail boom cargo compartment, etc., were sealed with tape.

Bell YUH-1D Iroquois 60-6029. (FAI)

The Bell Helicopter Co. UH-1D Iroquois (Model 205) was an improved variant the UH-1B (Model 204). The type’s initial military designation was HU-1, and this resulted in the helicopter being universally known as the “Huey.” The UH-1D has a larger passenger cabin, longer tail boom and increased main rotor diameter.

The UH-1D was a single main rotor/tail rotor medium helicopter powered by a turboshaft engine. It could be flown by a single pilot, but was commonly flown by two pilots in military service. The helicopter had an overall length of 57 feet, 0.67 inches (17.375 meters) with rotors turning. The fuselage was 41 feet, 5 inches (12.624 meters) long. The helicopter had a height of 13 feet, 7.4 inches (4.150 meters), measured to the top of the mast. The maximum gross weight of the UH-1D was 9,500 pounds (4,309.1 kilograms).

The two blade semi-rigid, under-slung main rotor had a diameter of 48 feet, 3.2 inches (14.712 meters), and turned counter clockwise when viewed from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) At 100% NR, the main rotor turned 324 r.p.m. The two blade tail rotor assembly had a diameter of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters). It was on the left side of the pylon in a pusher configuration and turned counter-clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.)

The YUH-1D was powered by a Lycoming T53-L-9 or -11 turboshaft engine which was rated at 1,100 shaft horsepower at 6,610 r.p.m., for takeoff (5 minute limit). The T53-L-11 was a two-shaft free turbine with a 6-stage compressor (5 axial-flow stages, 1 centrifugal-flow stage) and a 2-stage axial-flow turbine (1 high-pressure stage, and 1 low-pressure power turbine stage). As installed in the UH-1, the engine produced 115 pounds of jet thrust (511.55 Newtons) at Military Power.

Its maximum speed, VNE, was 124 knots (143 miles per hour, 230 kilometers per hour). With full fuel, 206.5 gallons (781.7 liters), the helicopter had a maximum endurance of three hours.

60-6029 was later modified to the prototype YUH-1H.

Captain Michael N. Antoniou with Bell YUH-1D-BF 60-6029 (c/n 702), circa 1965. (David Hatcher Collection)

¹ FAI Record File Number 2180

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

17 September 1952

Bell Model 47D-1 N167B with modified landing gear and multiple fuel tanks. (Bell Helicopter)

17 September 1952: Bell Aircraft Corporation test pilot Elton John (“E.J.”) Smith flew a modified Bell Model 47D-1 helicopter, N167B (s/n 21), from Hurst, Texas, to Niagara Falls, New York, setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record for distance without landing of 1,958.80 kilometers (1,217.14 miles).¹

During Smith’s flight, the flight controls’ hydraulic boost system failed. The helicopter’s radio also caught fire, forcing Smith to pull the wiring loose.

Elton John Smith, 1952. (FAI)


     A new world’s record for a nonstop distance flight by helicopter was established Wednesday when a Bell helicopter flew approximately 1,234 miles from the Bell Aircraft Corporation plant near Hurst to the front lawn of the main plant in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

     The pilot was Elton J. Smith, 31-year-old Bell test pilot, who lives with his wife and three small children at 4121 Vance Rd. in North Richland Hills.

     The helicopter was named Longhorn.

     Smith took off from the heliport at the Hurst plant at 4:41 a.m. and landed in Niagara Falls at 5:38 p.m. Fort Worth time. His elapsed time in the air 12 hours and 57 minutes.

     Lawrence D. Bell, president of the corporation, shouted congratulations to Smith while the helicopter’s rotors were still spinning.

     “Thank you, sir,” Smith replied.

     Later he reported that “I wasn’t very tired, it was a good flight. I ran into a little bad weather over the Ozarks, which forced me to detour somewhat from my proposed straight line flight from Fort Worth to Niagara Falls. After that I had pretty good weather and flew most of the route between 6,000 and 8,000 feet.

     “I started having radio trouble about one hour out of Fort Worth, which accounts for the fact that there was no contact with me during a great deal of the trip.

     “I had enough gas left to go another four hours—about 40 gallons,” he said. “I used only two quarts of oil on the trip.

     “I really got a kick out of doing it because a lot of us in the helicopter industry thought it could be done.

     “All in all, I was pretty fresh at the end of the trip—just a little bit stiff.”

     The flight, via Cleveland and Buffalo, broke the official helicopter distance record of 703.6 miles, established in a Sikorsky R05 helicopter on May 26, 1946, by Major F. T. Caschman, U.S. Air Force.

     That flight was from Cleveland to Logan, Mass, Other long distance flights on record, but not recognized by National Aeronautic Association, include:

     A flight of 920 miles from Iceland to Prestwick, Scotland, on July 31, 1952, by a Sikorsky H-19, flown by an Air Force pilot and co-pilot.

     A flight of 956 miles, 843 cross-country and 113 miles in the vicinity of Dayton, Ohio, on July 6, 1951, by Captain Wayne W. Eggert, U.S. Air Force.

     The helicopter  piloted by Smith was a Model 47D, built by Bell in December 1947. It is equipped with a 200-horsepower, six-cylinder Franklin aircooled engine. The ship previously had logged 387 hours and 50 minutes of flying time.

     Official observer for the NAA was E. J. Reeves of Dallas, who placed sealed barographs aboard the Longhorn before takeoff. The NAA also sealed the gas and oil tanks and an official was on hand to certify that the seals had not been broken when the helicopter.

     The helicopter took off with 187 gallons of gasoline and two gallons of oil. Estimated cost for the fuel on the flight was $59.30, a Bell release issued after the takeoff declared.

     Normal gross weight for a 47D model helicopter is 2,350 pounds, the release said. Gross for the record-breaking flight was 2,750 pounds.

     Smith carried with him several candy bars, a half-gallon of drinking water, and a beef sandwich.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 18 September 1952, Page 1, Columns 1–3

Bell Model 47D-1, N167B. (FAI)

Bell 47D-1 N167B (s/n 21) was originally built in December 1947 as a Model 47D. It was assigned to Bell’s Research and Development group for many years and went through numerous modifications. It had been used to develop the U.S. Army’s H-13B Sioux. For the record-setting flight, N167B was modified with seven fuel tanks, with two located in the passenger cabin, and five mounted behind the engine. After starting the engine, the electric starter motor was removed to save weight. At takeoff, it had a gross weight of 2,750 pounds (1,247 kilograms), 400 pounds (181 kilograms) over the certified maximum gross weight of the helicopter. It had flown 387 hours, 50 minutes, before the 17 September 1952 flight. Its FAA registration was cancelled 11 June 1970.

The Bell Model 47D-1 was the first three-place variant of the Model 47 series. Its Type Certificate was approved 29 March 1949. The initial price was $39,500.

The Bell Model 47D-1 had an overall length (with rotors turning) of 41 feet, 4¾ inches (12.618 meters). The main rotor diameter was 35 feet, 1½ inches (10.706 meters) in diameter. The length of the fuselage, from the front of the canopy to the trailing edge of the tail rotor disc, was 30 feet, 5 inches (9.271 meters). It was 9 feet, 4-5/16 inches (2.827 meters) high to the top of the main rotor mast.

The Bell 47D-1 main rotor was a two-bladed, under-slung, semi-rigid assembly that would be a characteristic of helicopters built by Bell for decades. The blades were constructed of laminated wood. An 8 foot, 4 inch (2.540 meters) stabilizer bar was placed below the hub and linked to the flight controls through hydraulic dampers. This made for a very stable aircraft. The main rotor turned counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade was on the right.) Its normal operating range was 322–360 r.p.m. (294–360 r.p.m. in autorotation).

The 47D-1 tail rotor was positioned on the right side of the tail boom in a tractor configuration. It had a diameter of 5 feet, 8-1/8 inches (1.730 meters) and rotated counter-clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade was above the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor blades were also made of wood.

Elton J. Smith tests the modified Bell 47D-1. (Bell Helicopter)

Power was supplied by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 333.991-cubic-inch-displacement (5.473 liter) Franklin Engine Company 6V4-178-B32 vertically-opposed six cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 8.5:1. This engine was rated at 200 horsepower at 3,100 r.p.m. at Sea Level. Engine torque was sent through a centrifugal clutch to a transmission. The mast (the main rotor drive shaft) was driven through a two-stage planetary gear reduction system with a ratio of 9:1. The transmission also drove the tail rotor drive shaft, and through a vee-belt/pulley system, a large fan to provide cooling air for the engine.

The standard production Model 47D-1 had a maximum gross weight of 2,350 pounds (1,066 kilograms) and a fuel capacity of 29 U.S. gallons (110 liters). Its cruise speed was 78 miles per hour (126 kilometers per hour) and its service ceiling was 12,000 feet (3,658 meters).

Bell built 129 Model 47D-1 helicopters.

The Bell 47 was produced at the plant in New York, and later at Fort Worth, Texas. It was steadily improved and remained in production until 1974. In military service the Model 47 was designated H-13 Sioux, (Army and Air Force), HTL (Navy) and HUG (Coast Guard). The helicopter was also built under license by Agusta, Kawasaki and Westland. More than 7,000 were built worldwide and it is believed that about 10% of those remain in service.

Elton John Smith was born 4 September 1921 at Walton, New York. He was the second of three children of William H. Smith, a farmer, and Florence (“Flossie”) Delilah Knapp. He attended Parker High School in Clarence, New York.

Aviation Cadet Elton John Smith.

Elton Smith enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet, 11 December 1941. He completed flight training at the Lubbock Army Flying School, 20 March 1943 and commissioned as a second lieutenant. He was assigned to fly North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell medium bombers.

On 24 December 1943, Lieutenant Mitchell married Miss Rita Marie Follett at a private residence in San Angelo, Texas. They would have four children.

Smith was discharged from the U.S. Army Air Forces, 6 December 1945.

In 1947, E. J. Smith joined the Bell Aircraft Corporation at Buffalo, New York, as a test pilot.

E. J. Smith completes documentation for his world record flight.

On 20 October 1954, along with Bell’s Chief Pilot Floyd W. Carlson, Chief Experimental Test Pilot Smith made the first flight of the Bell XH-40, prototype of the legendary “Huey” military helicopter.

In 1973, Smith became the manager of flight and technical training for Bell Helicopter International’s Iranian training program. He was later the company’s head of international sales. He retired in 1984.

Elton John Smith died Thursday, 18 October 1990, in a hospital in Irvine, Texas. His remains ere buried at Greenwood Memorial Park, Fort Worth, Texas.

¹ FAI Record File Number 976

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes