July 15, 1952 - First transatlantic helicopter flight
Two U.S.A.F. Sikorsky H-19s (S-55) “Hop-A-Long” and “Whirl-A-Way” flew from Westover AFB, Chicopee, MA to Wiesbaden, Germany) and arrived on Aug. 4, 1952. (51 hours 55 minutes flight time, with 6 stops in 21 days)
Chronology of Massachusetts Aviation
First Trans Atlantic Crossing by Helicopter
Hop-a-long and Whirl-o-way arriving Prestwick, Scotland
The U.S. Air Force Air Rescue Service ferried two H-19s across the Atlantic Ocean by way of Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland to Wiesbaden, Germany. The two H-19s flew from Sikorsky to Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts.
On July 15, 1952 the two aircraft, christened Hop-a-long and Whirl-o-way, started their long cross Atlantic journey to Germany. Harry Hleva and Edward Benham were the two Sikorsky representatives on the long adventurous trip. On July 31, Hop-a-long and Whirl-o-way arrived to a festive reception in Scotland. They were rushed to an air show in The Hague, Netherlands, and then to their final destination, Wiesbaden, Germany.
From Sikorsky Archives News, July 2006
H-19A TRANS ATLANTIC FLIGHT
The account which follows is by a member of the party which welcomed the crews at Prestwick, and it begins with an air-to-air impression of the arrival, for the writer, Colin Cooper, was on board a B.E.A. Viking (chartered by United Aircraft Corporation and by Westland Aircraft, the Sikorsky licencees in this country) which flew out to sea to meet the helicopters.
~CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE~
Lead aircraft of the pioneering 1952 transatlantic flight. Hop-A-Long was flown by mission commander Capt. Vincent McGovern and Capt. Harry Jeffers. Note extra fuel tanks in the cabin and mechanic on work stand above cabin door. Aircraft name and map (barely visible) were painted in red on nose. (Smithsonian NASM)
The other half of the transatlantic team, Whirl-A-Way, at Goose Bay Labrador just before takeoff on the next leg of the 3,984 mile trip. H-19A was flown by 1st Lt. Harold Moore and Capt. George Hambrick. Map on side of nose shows route and bears legend "Wiesbaden Or Bust". ARS SA-16 and SB-17 Flying Fortress in background. Wiesbaden was headquarters for USAF in Europe
Reese AFB TX 1957
Photo Courtesy of Bill Lyster
Landing in Germany 4 August 1952
H-19A TRANS ATLANTIC FLIGHT
The below information was extracted from an article by Robert F. Dorr and was titled "Manifestly Multirole" Sikorsky's H-19 series detailed and was published in Air International April 1992.
Sid Nanson provided the article for our use.
More than a mere stunt or attempt to get into the record books, the first transatlantic helicopter crossing was an important test of the capabilities of rotorcraft to deploy rapidly over long distances. The man who would eventually lead the mission, Air Force Captain Vincent McGovern, proposed the idea.
McGovern had flown the lightweight Sikorsky H-5 (S-51) on 96 missions in Korea and had been impressed by the specifications of the big new H-19. He first had the opportunity to fly the new helicopter in January 1951, and a year later, while serving in the headquarters of the Air Rescue Service, he formulated a plan to ferry two H-19s across the Atlantic. He reasoned that if the Cold War was to turn hot in Europe, American forces would need hundreds of helicopters, and the cheapest, fastest way to got them there would be to fly them. The long flight would create the opportunity to both experiment with helicopter range extension techniques and explore problems of helicopter pilot fatigue.
McGovern submitted his plan on June 5, and received approval from the commander of MATS two weeks later. Hurrying to take advantage of mild summer weather, he assembled an experienced team of helicopter pilots and seized the opportunity to save the government the $5,000 it cost just to pack two H-19s for overseas shipment. The team rushed off to the Sikorsky plant to collect two new H-19As scheduled for delivery to the 9th Air Rescue Squadron at Wiesbaden Air Force Base in West Germany.
The helicopters were stripped of their pontoons, rescue hoists, sound proofing, cabin heaters (the crew would wear rubber exposure suits on the long haul), and other non-essentials, then loaded with three 100-gallon fuel tanks to boost total fuel capacity to 480 gallons. Christened Hop-A-Long (51-3893) and Whirl-O-way (51-3890), the two H-19s flew from the factory to Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, and then, on July 15 1952 from Westover to Presque Isle Maine on the first leg of their long hop.
At Presque Isle, the mission was grounded for two days by bad weather. On July 17, the two helicopters went on to Goose Bay Labrador, under the comforting watch of Duckbutt Alla, a converted B-17 Flying Fortress (SB-17) loaded with rescue gear. The four-engine bomber provided advance weather information and navigational guidance for the helicopters over water.
Hop-A-Long and Whirl-O-Way were also shadowed by Playmate, a SC-54 transport carrying spare parts, mechanics, and observers.
Turned back to Goose Bay three times by bad weather, and forced to spend the night at an isolated Eskimo village near Cape Harrison, Labrador, McGovern and company set out on July 27 for Greenland. Enroute, Whirl-O-Way's gyroscope failed, and the two helicopters were forced to fly low to maintain visual formation, dodging around icebergs as they skimmed the sea below thick fog.
Narrowly missing the upturned end of an iceberg, the choppers landed on rocky icy Simiutak Island where their crews shared the hospitality of a remote Canadian radio outpost. The next day, the pair pressed on to Narsarssuak, Greenland and from there to Keflavik, Iceland, setting a nonstop helicopter distance record of 703.6 miles.
On the next day, July 31 the helicopters broke their own record, flying more than 800 miles nonstop from Keflavik to Prestwick Scotland.
From a festive reception in Scotland they were rushed to an air show at The Hague, Netherlands, and from there they flew on to their final destination, Wiesbaden Germany, arriving on August 4. The two H-19s were on hand with the 9th ARS two days later to save the crew of an American bomber that crashed in a river.
The 3,984 statute mile trip took 20 days and accounted for 51 hours, 55 minutes of flying lime, hardly the speedy deployment McGovern had hoped to demonstrate. But the effort stands as a testimonial to four determined men and the helicopters they flew.
The Pilots were Captains Vincent McGovern, Harry Jeffers, George Hembrick, and Lt. Harold Moore.
Sid Nanson provided the following:
51-3890 was donated to the State of Nebraska on the 4th of February 1960. It was given a civilian registration, N109DA, although I do not know if it flew at all when it was with the Nebraska Adjutant General's office. It is possible that this historic helicopter ended up with the West Nebraska Technical College.
51-3893 went into DM on the 25th of October 1960 and departed there on the 15th of September 1961. It was Stuck off Charge from the USAF on the 24th of August 1962 as a "MAP" aircraft, recipient country unknown to me.
The following provided by Bob Brubaker, Bill Crawford and Bill Lyster.
Portions of this text and pictures have been published in the Air Rescue Association Newsletter (ARA), with more to be published in the future. The ARA website is at:
The link below will take you to the text and pictures referenced. Pages 1-27 tell about two of our members’ early days (Bill Crawford and Bill Lyster) as well as two friends of theirs. This portion has been previously published in an earlier ARS newsletter.
Pages 27-31 describe the trials and tribulations that Bill Crawford and Bill Lyster encountered when taking on the task of reassembling Hop-A-Long and Whirl-A-Way when they were returned to the States. This portion will be published in the ARA newsletter at a later date.