Sikorsky Aircraft highlighted its past achievements, and their influence on the company’s current direction, in introducing its theme of “Technology Meets Tradition” at Heli-Expo 2014 on Tuesday.
“Seventy-five years ago, we celebrated the liftoff of the first Sikorsky prototype helicopter, the VS-300,” said Sergei Sikorsky, son of aviation pioneer and company founder Igor Sikorsky. “I’m going to give you three short sentences, my father’s first three-week impressions of the VS-300. It was a very honest evaluation: ‘The vibration was fierce. The control was marginal. Stability was non-existent.’”
Sikorsky obviously resolved those issues, however, and just 25 years later the CH-53 heavy-lift helicopter took to the skies for the first time. “The technology is interesting if you compare [the two helicopters],” Sikorsky added. “The VS-300 barely lifted one pilot; 25 years later the CH-53 would lift 30 to 50 troops as a matter of routine.” Furthermore, the CH-53 offered a full 3,910 horsepower more than the VS-300’s diminutive 90 horsepower, and today’s CH-53E variant lifts as much as 53,000 pounds compared to its progenitor’s 1,000- pound gross weight.
Carey Bond, president of commercial systems and services at Sikorsky, then directed attendees to the helicopters displayed at the company’s booth, from the Korean War-era S-52, the first helicopter type ordered by the U.S. Marines, to the advanced S-76D corporate helicopter, both sharing space with a mockup of the company’s S-97 Raider concept high-speed scout and attack aircraft.
“That aircraft is getting ready down in our flight assembly facility in West Palm Beach. We will fly it before the end of the year,” Bond added. “Not only do we think we [the S-97] will double the speed of a useful helicopter, you can see the huge jump in technology that [the company’s] investment has brought.”