1954 Sikorsky S-55 / UH-19B “Chickasaw” (52-7573)
The museum's S-55 / H-19B at our annual Corsair Car Show. Photo by: Jerry O'Neill
The Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw (company model number S-55) was a multi-purpose helicopter used by the United States Army and United States Air Force. It was also license-built by Westland Aircraft as the Westland Whirlwind in the United Kingdom. United States Navy and United States Coast Guard models were designated HO4S, while those of the U.S. Marine Corps were designated HRS. In 1962, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Marine Corps versions were all redesignated as H-19s like their U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force counterparts.
The U.S. Marine Corps made extensive use of the H-19 in the Korean War. It was designated as the HRS in USMC service. Marine Squadron HMR-161 arrived in Korea on September 2, 1951 with 15 HRS-1 helicopters. Although HMR-161 helicopters were operating in hot landing zones they did not lose any helicopters to enemy fire. HRS-1 helicopters were also used to relocate rocket launcher batteries. Because rockets create much visible dust when fired they make an easy target for enemy artillery. To reduce their exposure, launchers and crews were moved twice a day. Each HRS-1 helicopter carried four rocket launchers and extra rockets as external cargo, with the crew in the cabin. The HRS-1 helicopter proved to be durable and reliable in Korean service. One reportedly flew home after losing 18 in (46 cm) of main rotor blade to a tree.
Development of the H-19 was initiated privately by Sikorsky without government sponsorship. The helicopter was initially designed as a testbed for several novel design concepts intended to provide greater load-carrying ability in combination with easy maintenance. Under the leadership of designer Edward F. Katzenberger, a mockup was designed and fabricated in less than one year. 1,281 of the helicopters were manufactured by Sikorsky in the United States. An additional 447 were manufactured by licensees of the helicopter including Westland Aircraft, the SNCASE in France and Mitsubishi in Japan. The helicopter was widely exported, used by many other nations, including Portugal, Greece, Israel, Chile, South Africa, Denmark and Turkey.
The H-19 Chickasaw holds the distinction of being the U.S. Army's first true transport helicopter and, as such, played an important role in the initial formulation of Army doctrine regarding air mobility and the battlefield employment of troop-carrying helicopters. The H-19 underwent live service tests in the hands of the 6th Transportation Company, during the Korean War beginning in 1951 as an unarmed transport helicopter. Undergoing tests such as medical evacuation, tactical control and frontline cargo support, the helicopter succeeded admirably in surpassing the capabilities of the H-5 Dragonfly which had been used throughout the war by the Army.
Surplus H-19s were sold on the open market, and civil interest was sufficient that Sikorsky (and later Orlando Helicopter Airways) offered conversion kits allowing a military surplus H-19 to be commercially operated under a standard FAA type certificate. Turboshaft conversions and a novel campervan-like "Heli-Camper" conversion—featuring a built-in mini-kitchen and sleeping accommodations for four—were also offered by aftermarket modification companies.
About the Museum's Example:
The museum's S-55 / H-19B left the Sikorsky factory in Bridgeport on delivery to the USAF on May 6th, 1954. It moved from 3636 MSU Group at Stead AFB to the 3750 MSU Group at Sheppard AFB on January 21, 1966.
It then went to the 3630 FTA Wing at Sheppard on March 31, 1966 before being retired to Davis Monthan AFB on June 18, 1967, the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC) and struck off charge on September 23, 1969.
At some point the H-19 was donated to the H. H. Ellis Technical School in Danielson, Connecticut. Around 2003, the H-19 was donated to the Connecticut Air & Space Center and transported down to the Sikorsky Airport. Restoration began on November 20, 2014 by: "Team Heli". By October 1, 2019 the H-19 was completed.
The H-19 was placed on outside display in 2022 and is a delight for visitors to come view. The helicopter will receive a "sprucing up" before eventually being displayed in the Curtiss Hangar once restored.
The U.S. Air Force ordered 50 H-19A's for rescue duties in 1951. These aircraft were the primary rescue and medical evacuation helicopters for the USAF during the Korean War. The Air Force continued to use the H-19 through the 1960s, ultimately acquiring 270 of the H-19B model. The H-19 was also used in the early days of the Vietnam War before being supplanted by the Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw (which was based on the H-19).