Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane (CH-54 Tarhe)

In 1958 Sikorsky began development of a helicopter designed to carry heavy under slung loads as opposed to carrying equipment internally. This would allow the lifting of awkward shaped and heavy pieces of equipment such as artillery pieces. It was developed from the S-56 transport helicopter and a prototype first flew in 1959, once design was completed Sikorsky started production of a larger aircraft which was to become the S-64, the first true S-64 flew 9th May 1962.

The aircraft has a unique look with a pod and boom design, the forward pod housing the crew and nose landing gear with a distinctive rear facing window. This features a backward facing seat with full controls so the pilot can take control while loading or unloading. It is powered by two turbo shaft engines which turn a single 6 blade rotor and a four blade tail rotor. Out riggers provide a wide clearance for loads and special pods were developed which could carry 67 troops or 48 stretchers or even a field hospital unit, over 10,000kg of cargo could also be carried.

The US army ordered S-64 and renamed them CH-54 Tarhe to fit in with the US classification system for helicopters, the first five were delivered to the US Army 478th Aviation company part of the US 1st Cavalry in 1964 and served in Vietnam. Here they were put to various tasks including moving bulldozers and recovering downed aircraft, even at one point picking up 90 people including its three crew members. In the dense jungle conditions such a heavy lifter was invaluable and nearly 60 of the CH-54A’s were built to be followed by a further 37 CH-54B’s which had some structural strengthening and various other improvements including new landing gear. Sikorsky also built a few for civilian use; in military service the CH47D Chinook replaced it.

Max speed; 203km/h (126mph)
Max range: 370km (230 miles)

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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, T. (3 September 2007), Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane (CH-54 Tarhe),

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