Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane

The Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane is an American twin-engine heavy-lift helicopter. It is the civil version of the United States Army's CH-54 Tarhe. It is currently[when?] produced as the S-64 Aircrane by Erickson Inc.

S-64 Skycrane / Aircrane
Erickson S-64 over EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009
Role Aerial crane
National origin United States
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
Erickson Inc.
First flight 9 May 1962
Status In service
Primary user Erickson Inc.
Number built 100
Developed from Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe

Development edit

Under Sikorsky edit

The Sikorsky S-64 was designed as an enlarged version of the prototype flying crane helicopter, the Sikorsky S-60. The S-64 had a six-blade main rotor and was powered by two 4,050 shaft horsepower (3,020 kW) Pratt & Whitney JFTD12A turboshaft engines. The prototype S-64 first flew on 9 May 1962 and was followed by two further examples for evaluation by the German armed forces.[1] The Germans did not place an order, but the United States Army placed an initial order for six S-64A helicopters (with the designation YCH-54A Tarhe). Seven S-64E variants were built by Sikorsky for the civil market.

Under Erickson edit

Originally a Sikorsky Aircraft product, the type certificate and manufacturing rights were purchased from them by Erickson Air-Crane in 1992. Since that time, Erickson Air-Crane has become the manufacturer and world's largest operator of S-64 Aircranes and has made over 1,350 changes to the airframe, instrumentation, and payload capabilities of the helicopter. The Aircrane can be fitted with a 2,650 US gal (10,000 L) fixed retardant tank to assist in the control of bush fires.[2] The helicopter is capable of refilling its entire tank of water in 45 seconds from a water slide 18 in (46 cm) thick.[3]

S-64 Aircranes have been sold to the Italian and Korean Forest Services for fire suppression and emergency response duties. Those in the Erickson Air-Crane fleet are leased worldwide to organizations, companies, and federal government agencies for either short-term or longer term use in fire suppression, civil protection, heavy lift construction, and timber harvesting. Erickson is manufacturing new S-64s, as well as remanufacturing existing CH-54s.

Erickson gives each of its S-64s an individual name, the best-known being "Elvis", used in fighting fires in Australia alongside "The Incredible Hulk" and "Isabelle". Other operators, such as Siller Brothers, have followed with their Sikorsky S-64E, Andy's Pride. The Erickson S-64E nicknamed "Olga" was used to lift the top section of the CN Tower into place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[4]

Variants edit

Sikorsky Skycrane edit

Skycrane "Olga" lifting a CN Tower antenna segment
Twin-engined heavy-lift helicopter, 3 built. 1 rebuilt as S-64E.
Six test and evaluation helicopters for the US Army.
Civil version of CH-54A, 7 built.

Erickson edit

Upgraded CH-54A helicopters, plus one new build aircraft; 17 aircraft in total.
Upgraded CH-54B helicopters; powered by two Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-5A engines; 13 aircraft in total.
Proposed upgraded version with new engines, avionics, and optional piloting.[5]

Operators edit

An Erickson S-64 making a water drop
Italian Forest Service S-64F
  South Korea
  United States

Incidents edit

  • N189AC "Gypsy Lady" – crashed in Ojai, California on 1 October 2006. While operating for the USFS, the Erickson S-64 snagged a dip tank and the helicopter rolled over and crashed.[15]
  • N198AC "Shirley Jean" – S-64F; sold to European Air-Crane c.2006 as I-SEAD; crashed in Italy on 2007-04-26.[16] Aircraft was destroyed in a post-crash fire.[17]
  • N248AC "Aurora" – S-64E; named after Aurora State Airport, home to Columbia Helicopters, former owner of aircraft.[7] Crashed on 26 August 2004 in Corsica, killing its Canadian pilot and French co-pilot. The aircrane was chartered by the interior ministry to fight fires on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. It had been fighting a wildfire as it went down near the village of Ventiseri, trying to return to a nearby military base, due to technical problems associated with inflight breakup.[18][19]
  • N173AC "Christine" – S-64E; ditched into a small dam within Melbourne's water catchment with no casualties during a firefighting operation in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia on 28 January 2019. The crew, consisting of 2 pilots and the flight engineer, were able to bail from the aircraft in 2-3m of water and swim to safety with no life-threatening injuries.[20] The aircraft was rebuilt at Erickson's Central Point, Oregon facility and flew again in early 2021.
  • N4037S - An S-64E operated by Siller Helicopters sustained damage to the right main landing gear wheel and tire assembly after a midair collision with a Bell 407 near Cabazon, California while both aircraft were responding to a reported fire on 6 August 2023. The S-64 landed near the collision site with no injuries to the two pilots on board. The Bell 407 sustained substantial damage in the collision, leaving a debris field approximately 1000 feet in length before coming to rest on a rocky hillside where it was consumed by a post-crash fire. The contract pilot along with a Cal Fire Assistant Chief and Cal Fire Captain on board the Bell 407 were killed. [21]

Specifications (S-64E) edit


Data from The International Directory of Civil Aircraft[22]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot), plus one rear-facing aft-stick operator during external-load operations[a]
  • Capacity: up to 5 total people[b] / 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) payload
  • Length: 70 ft 3 in (21.41 m)
  • Height: 18 ft 7 in (5.66 m)
  • Empty weight: 19,234 lb (8,724 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 42,000 lb (19,051 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-4A (T73-P-1) turboshaft engines, 4,500 shp (3,400 kW) each
  • Main rotor diameter: 72 ft 0 in (21.95 m)
  • Main rotor area: 4,070 sq ft (378 m2)


  • Maximum speed: 115 kn (132 mph, 213 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 115 kn (132 mph, 213 km/h)
  • Never exceed speed: 115 kn (132 mph, 213 km/h)
  • Range: 200 nmi (230 mi, 370 km) max fuel and reserves
  • Hover ceiling IGE S-64E: 10,600 ft (3,200 m)
  • Hover ceiling IGE S-64A: 9,700 ft (3,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,330 ft/min (6.8 m/s)

See also edit

Sikorsky installing monopole in Langkawi, Malaysia

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists

Notes edit

  1. ^ The minimum crew is two and the aft-stick operation can be done by the co-pilot
  2. ^ The helicopter has five seats but the two observer seats can not be used during external load operations, if the aft-stick seat is used when not used for external-load operations then the controls have to be disengaged and guarded.

References edit

  1. ^ Jackson, Paul (1976). German Military Aviation 1956–1976. Midland Counties Publications. ISBN 0-904597-03-2.
  2. ^ Mason, Ryan (20 October 2021). "Erickson S-64 Air Crane to Return to Australian Skies This Season". Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  3. ^ "Firefighting Services". Erickson Incorporated. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Topping of Tower". Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  5. ^ Reim, Garrett (29 January 2020). "Erickson to demo S-64 Air Crane flying autonomously using Sikorsky Matrix". Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  6. ^ "Erickson delivers another Air Crane to Korea Forest Service". 2019. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Helispot photo". Helispot. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  8. ^ "the origins of Erickson Air-Crane". Erickson Air-Crane, Inc. 2013. Archived from the original on 29 March 2013. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  9. ^ "Evergreen S-64 spec. sheet" (PDF). Evergreen aviation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  10. ^ "HTS Fleet". Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  11. ^ "LAFD S-64". Archived from the original on 21 May 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  12. ^ "L.A. County S-64". Yahoo. Archived from the original on 21 May 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  13. ^ "Erickson Air-Crane buys Sun Bird aircraft from San Diego Gas & Electric". Helihub. 7 October 2012. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  14. ^ "Fleet". Siller helicopters. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  15. ^ "NTSB report (LAX07TA001)". Archived from the original on 14 January 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Helicopters area of (report excerpts in Italian)". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
  17. ^ "NTSB report – NYC07WA152". 26 April 2007. Archived from the original on 19 February 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  18. ^ "NTSB report – WAS04WA012". 26 August 2004. Archived from the original on 31 July 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  19. ^ "NTSB probes Air-Crane crash – September 9, 2004". 9 September 2004. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  20. ^ "Aircrane extracted after crashing into lake in Australia". Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  21. ^ "NTSB Report - WPR23FA302". Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  22. ^ Frawley, Gerard: The International Directiory of Civil Aircraft, 2003–2004, page 195. Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2003. ISBN 1-875671-58-7

External links edit

External image
  Line drawing of Skycrane