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1958 Sikorsky S-60 “Flying Crane”

The S-60 was the last rotor-craft that Igor Sikorsky personally worked on, designed, and tested at Sikorsky.

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. Bulk cargo and passengers were intended to be carried in large rectangular pods that could be attached to the underside of the aircraft’s central spine, whereas vehicles and other out-sized loads were to be sling-hoisted. One S-60 was built for Navy evaluation, but the craft was found to be underpowered for its intended roles and Sikorsky took the design back to the drawing boards for extensive reworking. The reconfigured machine, which was allotted the company designation S-64A, made its first flight in May 1962 under the watchful eyes of Army observers.

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Sikorsky’s first ‘Flying Crane’ helicopter was the Sikorsky S-60, developed from the S-56 and retaining that machine’s powerplant, transmission and rotor system. Work began in May 1958 and the prototype was flown on March 25, 1959; it was capable of lifting a 5443kg payload beneath the fuselage boom, and the co-pilot could turn his seat to face aft to control loading and unloading.

The "Flying Crane" was the last design Igor Sikorsky personally worked on while at Sikorsky Aircraft. It was the direct outcome of the S-60 experiments that were done with a piston H-37 drive train. The helicopter accumulated 333 hours of flight in its two-year flight career, and was evaluated by the US Navy, with demonstrations also flown for the US Army. While effective in its designed role, the helicopter proved to be underpowered. The prototype S-60 was damaged in April of 1961, but by then Sikorsky had begun construction of an enlarged version, with a six-bladed main rotor driven by two 3020kW JFTD-12A turboshaft engines. Designated S-64, the prototype flew on May 9, 1962. It was ordered into production for the US Army as the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe.

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While being contracted out to NASA, the prototype crashed at the Sikorsky Plant in April 1961. The wreckage of the S-60 was eventually transferred to the New England Air Museum in the 1970s. In 2010 the wreckage was donated to the Connecticut Air & Space Center where restoration work began almost immediately. Since then the cockpit pod has been restored, rear fuselage re-skinned, and other components restored. A donor CH-37 wing spar was sourced and will be used in the restoration. This project will take many more years and thousands of dollars to complete this one-of-a-kind prototype helicopter. Consider donating or volunteering today!

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