WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., 6 Dec. 2012. The Sikorsky team developing the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps has delivered the first prototype aircraft, the ground test vehicle (GTV), to the flight test team. This will enable Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX), to prepare and test the GTV aircraft for powered ground checks ahead of the four follow-on flight test helicopters that will take to the skies during 2014-15.
Though designed to the same footprint size as the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters they will begin to replace in 2019, CH-53K helicopters will triple the external load carrying capacity to more than 27,000 pounds more than 126 miles under "high hot" ambient conditions. Technology enablers for this increased lift capability include 7,500-shaft-horsepower GE38-1B engines; a split torque transmission design that distributes engine power to the main rotors; fourth-generation composite rotor blades for lift; and a composite airframe structure.
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Flight test engineers will spend the coming months performing preliminary acceptance tests that include calibrating the GTV’s fuel system and attaching measuring devices at more than 1,300 test locations on the aircraft to record temperature, aerodynamic loads, pressure, and vibrations. By mid 2013, the GTV will be attached to an outdoor platform built to hold the aircraft in place when its three engines are powered on, a process known as a "light-off." Initial light-off test events will be performed without rotor blades, followed by more rigorous tests with the blades attached.
Sikorsky is designing, building and testing the GTV and the four flight aircraft, called engineering development models, as part of a $3.5 billion system development and demonstration contract. Two additional ground test articles are undergoing airframe structural testing at Sikorsky’s main manufacturing plant in Stratford, Conn., as part of the same contract. The aircraft’s major fuselage sections are supplied by Aurora Flight Sciences, ITT Excelis, GKN Aerospace and Spirit Aerosystems.