CH-54 Skycrane / Tarhe
The Sikorsky (model S-64A) CH-54A/CH-54B "Skycrane", with a crew of three, was designed for heavy internal or external lift of heavy bulk loads. This helicopter was used to lift very heavy objects. It can pick up and move a small house. It can lift large, heavy pipes. It can carry a train engine or even another helicopter. It can be used to build buildings. The helicopter can lift a big, heavy object. The helicopter carries it through the sky. The helicopter can set it down many miles away.
The CH-54 was used in aircraft recovery operations when loads were too heavy for the CH-47 Chinook. It was also useful for off-loading during ship-to-shore operations. The CH-54 could also be rigged to drop the large 10,000 lb. cratering bomb used to create landing zones ("LZs") in dense jungle.
A hoist was provided to allow pickups and deliveries without landing. A lightweight van (universal pod) could be attached to the fuselage for use as a mobile command post, maintenance and repair shop, or as a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH). The field hospital was equipped with X-Ray, lab equipment, and blood bank. It was well lighted and air conditioned so surgery could be performed where ever it was needed. A "people pod" was designed to carry 45 combat-ready troops.
The T-54A Tarhe had a six-bladed main rotor, four-bladed metal tail rotor, was powered by two Pratt & Whitney T73-P-1 4500 shp turbine engines, and had a speed of 128 mph (111 knots). The CH-54B was powered by two Pratt & Whitney T73-P-700 4800 sph turbine engines. Sikorsky designed a twin-engined lifting rotor system, with standard cockpit forward and a vestigial cockpit below and facing aft. This rear-facing pilot's seat to provide a clear view of the cargo. That latter position was used when the helicopter is lifting a large load; the direct observation of the hoisting process by the pilot makes for better coordination. To the lifting rotor the designers added widespread landing gear that could straddle large loads for easier pickup. Consequently, the various versions of the S-64 can handle individual cargos or special vans with equal ease. The S-64 all purpose transport helicopter, also known as the flying crane, combined the maneuverability and vertical lift characteristics of the helicopter with a new concept-detachable pods. These pods, tailored to meet the requirements of a tactical mission, are attached to the underside of the S-64. The series of pods designed for the S-64 include a troop carrier, which holds up to 60 troops, and a cargo carrier. Without the pod, the S-64 can transport missiles and missile launchers, such as Honest John and Little John. In addition, the flying crane has a tow capability which provides a helping hand to disabled vehicles. The characteristics of the S-64 helicopter, designed by the Sikorsky Aircraft Company, include a 2-man crew, accommodations for 3 passengers, a gross weight of 38,000 pounds, and a maximum range of 600 nautical miles with two engine cruise and 800 nautical miles with one engine cruise.
Except for helicopters like the Sikorsky Skycrane that is designed especially for sling work, most helicopters have the attachment for external loads well below the center of gravity. Thus they can be inadvertently driven into the ground if the pilot tries to free the load by doing anything but pulling vertically.
Sikorsky's first 'flying crane' helicopter was the Sikorsky S-60, developed from the S-56 / H-37 and retaining that machine's powerplant, transmission and rotor system. In 1958 Sikorsky began design work on the Model S-60 twin-engined heavy-lift helicopter, a machine that incorporated the pod-mounted piston engines and dynamic components of the earlier Model S-56/CH-37. The S-60's fuselage was extremely simple, consisting of a central 'backbone' which supported the podded engines, main and tail rotor systems, and a nose-mounted crew cabin.
Earlier Sikorsky designs contributed to the development of the S-64. The six-bladed rotor system came essentially intact from the twin-engined S-56. Much design and flight experience came from the S-60 program, a predecessor flying crane powered by pistcn engines. The original specification was developed by the Army of the Federal Republic of Germany for a heavy-lift helicopter capable of hauling ten tons vertically. Deliveries have been made to the German Army, and to the US Army. The US Army bought 97 with deliveries between June, 1964 and 1972.
In Vietnam it was used to retrieve 380 downed aircraft. The "Skycrane" served with the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. The last one was retired in 1993 by the 113th Aviation of the Army National Guard based in Reno, Nevada in a time where was already replaced by the less powerful but more flexible Boeing Vertol CH-47 Chinook.
In early 1969 the US Army awarded a new contract to Sikorsky Aircraft to make several improvements on the CH-54 Flying Crane. The most notable change in the aircraft is an increased payload of 25,000 pounds. This is an increase of 5,000 pounds over the original. This modification also will increase the gross weight of the Crane from 42,000 pounds to 47,000 pounds. In addition, the contract calls for improvements in altitude performance, hot weather operating capabilities, and the dynamic components. The new version of the Flying Crane was designated the S-64F.
DARPA promoted CH-54 "flying crane" helicopters to move heavy Army equipment over otherwise impassable terrain in Vietnam. Such experimentation favored improving large ground units and using air power more for conventional than counterguerrilla warfare. The 1st Cavalry Division (AM) airlifted successfully the 155mm howitzer into positions which otherwise would be inaccessible. The CH-54 "Flying Crane" was utilized to sling-lift the howitzers into position. This capability provided medium range artillery support to ground elements in practically all types of terrain.
During MASHER-WHITE WING in 1966, the 155-mm howitzer was airlifted for the first time using the CH-54 "flying crane" helicopter. During this same campaign, it became an accepted technique to select hilltops for artillery positions since these were easier to defend and provided open fields of fire.
The most successful innovation of the Ia Drang campaign was airlifting the 155-millimeter howitzer for the first timq in combat. The roadbound medium artillery could not occupy positions within range of the objective area in the An Lao Valley. The division had the use of the CH-54 Flying Crane helicopter. After consultation with this unit, it was concluded that the 155-millimeter howitzers could be airlifted provided the weight was reduced to about 12,600 pounds. This was practical, so by utilizing a combination of Flying Crane and Chinook helicopters, one 4-gun battery was airlifted a distance of 15 miles in approximately two hours. Thereafter, the 155-millimeter howitzers were airlifted during all operations.
In April 1967 the 1st Cavalry Division was given less than twelve hours to put a battalion task force into the Duc Pho area and less than 36 hours to increase that force to brigade size. It was immediately obvious that the first requirement in this area would be the building of a heavy duty airstrip for support by Air Force aircraft. The decision was made to build a C-7A Caribou strip immediately at landing zone MONTEZUMA which could be expanded to accommodate C-123 aircraft. At landing zone MONTEZUMA there would also be space enough to build a parallel Caribou strip while the first airstrip was improved and surfaced to handle the larger and heavier C-130 aircraft. Company B of the 8th Engineer Battalion had arrived at landing zone MONTEZUMA during the morning of the 7th and immediately began a thorough reconnaissance of the airfield site. During the next two days, 31 pieces of heavy engineer equipment weighing over 200 tons were airlifted into Duc Pho. This move required 29 CH-54 "Flying Crane" sorties and 15 Chinook sorties. Much of the equipment had to be partially disassembled to reduce the weight to a transportable helicopter load. By 1800 hours on the 7th, enough equipment was on the ground to begin work. The earthmoving commenced and continued throughout the night by floodlights. By midnight, six hours after construction had begun, 25 percent of the Caribou strip was completed.
The Army accepted delivery of the first CH-54B Tarhe helicopter in December 1969. The latest model of the Tarhe fleet, it provided improved performance and reliability, reduced maintenance, and a two-ton payload increase over older models. It is the Free World's largest flying crane helicopter and is capable of airlifting large bulk items of equipment - (up to twelve tons) , including artillery weapons, heavy engineer equipment, and downed aircraft.
Prior to the March 1970 Closed Loop Support conference, it had been planned to deploy 23 CH-54B's, the modified "Flying Crane," to U.S. Army Vietnam. However, after consultation with the U.S. Army Vietnam representative, and recognizing the potential phaseout of "Flying Cranes" in the next 18 months, it was agreed that such a transfer would be costly and was unnecessary since the CH-54A's in U.S. Army Vietnam were accomplishing the required mission in a satisfactory manner. Accordingly, the CH-54A's were retained in U.S. Army Vietnam, except for those hightime and crash-damaged aircraft that had to be returned. The CH-54B's were assigned elsewhere in the Army. This program reduced both transportation and depot maintenance overhaul costs that would have been incurred, if the CH54A's had been returned to the Continental US.
The US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) executed a major portion of the force development activities in the active Army in fiscal year 1979. During the year, FORSCOM executed Phase III of the Aviation Requirements for the Combat Structure of the Army Study (ARCSA III), which involved inactivation of twelve aviation units, including the three heavy lift companies employing the CH-54 Flying Crane rendered obsolete by the improved CH-47D helicopter.
The Army retired its Skycranes in the 1970s and they were completely removed from military service in the 1980s. Ex-military Skycranes entered commercial service, where they are used in various heavy-lift roles, including the lumber industry. The U.S. military preferred a heavy-lift aircraft that also had a cabin capable of carrying cargo and troops.
Sikorsky S61 heavy helicopters are used to drop water on hot spots in forest fires. Helicopters are an excellent resource for combating wild fires, they are capable of transporting large amounts of water quickly from local water sources to be used on spot fires or continuously attacking a hot spot to assist ground crews in areas too hot to handle.
Help for the denuded hillsides of the Bunker Hill Superfund site came from an unlikely place...the sky! The sparse, acid and metal-tainted, bare soil slopes -- lying in the heart of northern Idaho's panhandle -- were re-seeded and fertilized by both land and helicopter in one of the largest re-vegetation projects ever undertaken in the region. Because many of the local hillsides are too steep for land-based equipment, helicopters suspended dispersion hoppers from lengths of braided steel cable, applying the landscape-enhancing mixture in much the same way that fire retardant is aerially dispersed over some wildfires. Erickson "Sky-Crane", subcontractor to Tri-State, will provide the heavy-duty "Sky Crane" helicopter, capable of carrying a 16,000 lb. payload, to cover roughly 160 of the 200 acres.
Erickson Air-Crane Company manufactures a helicopter equipped for aerial fire fighting known as the SK-64 Skycrane Helitanker. A 2,000 gallon tank is fixed to the belly of the helicopter. A fill tube or snorkel extends from the tank and mounts a submersible hydraulic pump at its free end which can be lowered into a body of water for pumping water up the snorkel and into the tank. The snorkel has a 10 inch diameter and a length of about 20 feet or more. About the first 10 feet of the snorkel is required for clearing the landing gear and the remaining length provides clearance between the helicopter and the body of water.
The pump employed is a centrifugal hydraulic pump which is capable of filling the 2,000 gallon tank in less than one minute with a 20 foot lift. The pump weighs about 285 pounds and draws about 20-30 HP of available horsepower from the hydraulic system of the helicopter.
While the Skycrane Helitanker is very effective at fighting ground fires, it has certain disadvantages. The large flow rate and horsepower requirements of the hydraulic pump effectively limit the application of this pumping system to Type 1 (large) military heavy-lift helicopters which have the available hydraulic horsepower to drive the pump. The application of such a hydraulic pump tanker system on smaller military lift helicopters is not known, and understandably so, since they would not have the available hydraulic horsepower capacity needed to drive the pump and would not have the available lift capacity to support the tanker system. The Blackhawk military helicopter, for example, has a lift capacity of about 10,000 pounds.
Another inherent limitation of the Skycrane Helitanker is that is dedicated to lifting and not designed to carry passengers. It would be advantageous to have a firefighting helicopter that, in addition to transporting and spreading water on ground fires, could also transport firefighters to or from the location of the ground fire, particularly while returning with an empty water tank. It would further be desirable to provide a pumping system suited for smaller lift helicopters that would be substantially lighter and would require substantially less horsepower to operate than that of the centrifugal hydraulic pump system of the Skycrane.
Tarhe [1742-1812], also known as The Crane, was a Grand Sachem of the Wyandot Nation. Tarhe was also known by the nickname "The Crane." Legend states that this name is in reference to his tall, slender build -- he was six feet four inches tall in an era when few men reached six feet. The name is now pronounce Tar-hee, but the earlier writers indicated that the accent was on the second syllable, pPronounced more correctly, Tar-Hay.
He led the Wyandots in the struggle to prevent white settlers in Ohio. Tarhe was born near present-day Detroit, Michigan, in 1742. He was a member of the Wyandot Indians and eventually became one of their chiefs. Like most Indians, Tarhe opposed white settlement of the Ohio Country. He fought to prevent the invasion of Indian land. In 1812, the British and Americans went to war again. Although Tarhe was in his seventies, he fought in the conflict as an ally of the American troops.
The novelist Zane Grey contributed his own romanticized version of tribal history and his version became widely accepted. His book Betty Zane told of a young boy who was captured and raised by Indians and subsequently married the chief's daughter. The boy Mr. Grey wrote about was Isaac Zane, a member of the famous Zane family of Wheeling for whom Zanesville, Ohio is named. Zane Grey himself was related to that family. The princess was Myeerah, daughter of the famous Tarhe, Grand Sachem of the Wyandots.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|