Did you know?... That the Air Force Can Tow Its 'Copters. Hundreds of Miles Added to Range in Rescue Projects;


Bridgeport, Conn. - A successful method for towing the relatively short-ranged helicopter by a conventional airplane to and from the scene of a rescue pick-up has been developed by the Sikorsky Aircraft division of United Aircraft Corporation.


The towing, which can be done by C-54's, C-82's and C-47's with towing devices, in effect extends the range of the rotary-wing aircraft by hundreds of miles. In time, acording to B. L. Whelan, general manager of Sikorsky Aircraft, helicopters may be towed 1,500 or more miles.


Test using a Sikorsky H-5 helicopter have been made since 1948 by the flight test division of the Air Material Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. As soon as all the H-5's in operation can be modified with towing mechanisms, tow operations will be possible everywhere, it was said.


The helicopter can be towed off the runway by a conventional plane or it can hover in the air and pick up the towline of the tow plane. Once the towline is engaged, the helicopter stops its engine and is moved to the rescue work area.


Over the rescue area, the helicopter starts it's engine again and releases the tow. Using its own power, it descends. Ater taking aboard the rescued persons, the helicopter climbs up and again "grabs" the towline of the tow plane.


During all the towing, the helicopter's engine is cut off. A pilot is at the helicopter controls all through the towing operation but servo-control units in the helicopter help fly the plane so there is little or no pilot fatigue on long hops.


The rotor blades rotate freely during the towing, giving the plane lift without the expenditure of gasoline. Test pilots who flew the experimental hops found that pilot fatigue was towed at about 110 miles an hour.


The test a Dayton also proved, Mr. Whelan said, that helicopters can be towed off the runway with no difficulty if the rotors are turning under their own power at takeoff. In the event of an emergency aloft the helicopter pilot can juttison the whole towing mechanism.


The towing principle will be particularly helpful in search and rescue work in the wilds of Labrador and other northern points where no roads, trails or landing areas for fixed-wing planes exist. Rescue aid for planes down in Labrador beyond the normal range of helicopters based at Goose Bay or other fields in the vicinity will now be easy work for the towed rotarywing craft.


The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) - Thursday, October 19, 1950, page 7


Did you know?... That the first Air Rescue helicopter lost in combat in SEA, happened on 20 Sep 1965. It was HH-43B, 62-4510 assigned to Det. 1, 38th ARRS (Prov.) NKP.  The crew consisted of Thomas J. Curtis (P), Duane W. Martin (CP), William A. Robinson (FE) and Arthur N. Black (PJ).


All were taken POW. Duane Martin was incarcerated in a camp controlled by the Pathet Lao and held captive in Laos. His escape resulted in him being captured by villagers and murdered and now is listed as MIA. The other three POWs were held by the North Vietnamese and released in 1973.


All four crew members were awarded The Air Force Cross. These were the first ARRS personnel to be awarded the Air Force Cross during Southeast Asia/Vietnam War.


Thomas J. Curtis and Duane W. Martin were the first helicopter pilots to be awarded the Air Force Cross during the war in Southeast Asia/Vietnam War. 


William A. Robinson and Arthur N. Black were the first enlisted to be awarded the Air Force Cross during the war in Southeast Asia/Vietnam War.



Did you know?... SSgt Jon D. Harston, a helicopter mechanic & USAF RotorHeads member, is the only enlisted to receive the Air Force Cross for heroic action during the U.S.S. Mayaguez incident.  The Mayaguez had been seized by the Cambodian armed forces; on May 15, 1975, SSgt Harston's helicopter was involved in the recovery mission. His helicopter was hit by enemy fire and crash-landed on the shore of Koh Tang Island. Although SSgt Harston was wounded, he supervised evacuation of the Marines and crew from his helicopter.


This combat action was the last combat action of the war in SEA, therefore SSgt Harston was the last enlisted person to receive the Air Force Cross during the SEA era.

Did you know?... That in 1956, the French Air Force experimented with arming the H-19 Chickasaw aka Sikorsky S-55, then being superseded in service by the more capable Piasecki H-21 and Sikorsky H-34 helicopters. The H-19 was originally fitted with a 20-mm cannon, two rocket launchers, plus a 20-mm cannon, two 12.7-mm machine guns, and a 7.5-mm light machine gun firing from the cabin windows, but this load proved far too heavy, and even lightly-armed H-19 gunships fitted with flexible machine guns for self-defense proved underpowered.

Did you know?... Crews from the California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing are certified to perform water bucket operations. Thus becoming the only rescue unit in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard qualified to fight fires. 

Did you know?... That a former Air Force HH-43B/F has flown as late as June 2008.  


This HH-43B/F is now part of the Olympic Flight Museum. It is civilian registered as N4069R and painted in USAF colors. It originally was USAF 64-17558.  It has just been restored and repainted in USAF colors. It flew for years as N4069R from McMinnville, OR.  This picture was taken at Olympia, WA on 14-15 June 2008. This was its first public presentation. It is of course the only flying USAF Huskie. Please visit my website and click on civilian for more information. (JOHAN RAGAY)

                   This photo was received from Chuck Ruth.


Did you know?... Sikorsky's was the first practical helicopter, but a different Russian and a younger Air Service got a chopper off the ground in 1922. 

Did you know?... The Air Force Reserves was the only Air Force organization to utilize the HH-34J helicopter. See more details on the "HH-34J AFRES" page.

Did you know?... That during 1958, one of Kaman's drones was tested with an electric motor in place of its piston engine. Current from a generator on the ground powered the motor.

Did you know?... The H-43 was utilized to assist the FAA in conducting a series of research and development tests.  Did you know... the H-43 once tested equipment for catching parachute-supported test packages?  Check the info in the "Helicopter Testing" section.

Did you know... That a former H-53 rescue pilot went on to become the Air Force Chief of Chaplains.  Check the "General Officers" page.

Did you know?... That ARS Detachment 52, Charleston AFB, SC claims the honor of being the first to land an HH-43B aboard ship while assisting in the recovery of the first Minuteman booster rocket fired from an underground silo. KAMAN ROTOR TIPS JUN-JUL 1963 COURTESY OF JOHAN RAGAY


Did you know... That the H-19 was once used as a Aerial Spray bird.  Check the "Bits & Pieces" section.

Did you know?... That Sikorsky H-19 helicopters performed a "secret" mission in Vietnam in 1957. Team members went ashore at Qui Nhon the morning of February 23, 1957 to set up the first site.  The last Air Force personnel departed Vietnam at 1700 hours, 16 May 1957.  Read the complete story here.

Did you know?... That Air America utilized Sikorsky H-19A helicopters (leased from the USAF) in Laos.  In late 1959, upon request of the CIA, four Air America pilots were sent to Japan and to the Philippines to be trained as helicopter pilots on the Sikorsky H-19. On 16 March 1960, the first two of four Sikorsky H-19's leased from the U.S. Air Force were handed over to Air America at Seno (L-46) in southern Laos (H-1/51-3871 and H-9/51-3849), followed by two more on 7 April 1960 (H-3/51-3853 and H-8/ 51-3878) The aircraft had come out of mothballs at Clark AFB and were shipped to Vientiane by C-124 aircraft. These helicopters started operations from Vientiane in March 1960, carrying CIA case officers to meetings in outlying areas and distributing leaflets during elections. In November 1960, Air America H-19As also supported the pro-Western troops of Phoumi Nosavan against Kong Le.  H-3/51-3853 was lost at Na Nhom, Laos, on 26 May 1960, when it came down in the jungle due to a power plant malfunction, but could not be recovered due to guerilla activities; so it was abandoned on the customer’s advice. Later in 1960, four former USMC pilots were hired, and four Sikorsky UH-34Ds arrived in December 1960 to replace the underpowered H-19s.

Read one pilot's story here.   

Did you know?... That during WW II secret project "Ivory Soap" the US Army Air Force utilized Sikorsky helicopters model R-4B and R-6A that used were for observation, spotting downed planes, rescue work and ferrying ship workers and parts to and from Pacific islands.  This is another one of those "officially never-told" secret de-classified stories that comes out of the vault and off the dusty shelf, discovered 55 years after World War II by one of the ship's crew, Fred Duncan, seeking information for a reunion.  This information was finally cleared for public release in May 1997. 

Did you know?... That two former Air Force helicopter pilots became NASA Astronauts.  Check the "Astronauts" page.


Did you know?... That when we were at Det. 2, 54th ARS, Harmon AFB, Newfoundland were changing over in 1963 from H-19's to H-43's we found the base firefighters there were all Canadians.  This meant we had to either get USAF guys sent up or use the Canadians.  It was a SAC base, and the Canadians were unionized, so the decision was made to use the Canadians. After approval from god and everyone up and down the chain, five were sent to the States for training.  They were great and fit right in with us.



The above is the only instance we know of where foreign nationals were utilized as crewmembers other than pilots. We are aware of exchange pilots from Australia, Canada, England and Germany.


Did you know?... That the Air Force evaluated the Piasecki/Vertol 107 which was later purchased by the U. S. Marines as the CH-46 back about 1960? At Otis AFB, we were promised the new H-3 to replace our aging H-21s, providing twin engine safety and reliability for our over water Texas Tower support missions. Due to non-availability of these, Piasecki/Vertol flew in a civilian outfitted 107 to Otis and we actually shot water landings in it on John's pond on the base perimeter. For a rotorhead not used to it, it was an eerie feeling, and believe me, not a comfortable one looking out the large window and seeing the water just a few inches below. Of course, in later years, water landings would become commonplace, but at the time, it was virtually unheard of for a non float equipped helicopter to make a water landing - AND TAKE OFF AGAIN!



Did you know... USAF ROTORHEADS has discovered little known information indicating the "FIRST" Air Rescue helicopters to be assigned to South East Asia (SEA) were two H-19 helicopters. Det. 14 EARC, Langley AFB, VA. sent them along with four pilots to Takhli RTAFB in September 1961.  They were sent TDY for 180 days to support the F-100 Triple Nickel unit.

USAF ROTORHEADS has contacted one of the pilots and hopes to receive further information and possibly some pictures.  


Anyone with information on this please contact us at rotorheadsrus@yahoo.com

Did you know... That the distinction of being the first helicopter pilot to fly in combat belongs to Lieutenant Carter Harman of the First Air Commando Group, who flew the first medical evacuations, in Burma on April 23, 1944. They were the first to be targeted by enemy fire: Japanese soldiers tried to shoot them down with machine guns. Their six-week effort constitutes the largest combat helicopter operation before the Korean War, yet their contributions remain largely unknown.