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Saga of the Eggbeater

Igor Sikorsky demonstrated the practicality of the helicopter to the U.S. Army in 1940.

Igor Sikorsky demonstrated the practicality of the helicopter to the U.S. Military in 1940.

By Mark Albertson

On September 14, 1939, Igor Sikorsky attained stability and management with the preliminary flight of an open cockpit check mattress referred to as the VS-300. Thus, Sikorsky launched to the world the primary working single rotor helicopter and fostered the essential design for rotary wing plane that has endured to the current day.

On Might 26, 1940, Sikorsky arrived at Wright Subject in Dayton, Ohio. He confirmed a movie on the VS-300 to an viewers from the Military Air Corps’ Materials Division. The pitch to get Washington to open its pockets labored. Funds, although, have been restricted because the Military was already invested within the XR-1 from the Platt-LePage Plane Firm. Nevertheless, the Platt-LePage providing was affected by controllability points. However, Sikorsky submitted a proposal to supply one other design, the VS-316, for $50,000. The Military agreed, and a contract was signed on January 10, 1941.

The unique VS-316 design featured three tail rotors, a vertical rotor mounted within the middle flanked by horizontal rotors. The design change to a single vertical rotor added $10,000 to the unique contract. Approximate improvement prices for the follow-on experimental XR-Four amounted to some $200,000.

The primary flight of the XR-Four was on January 14, 1942. In an effort to reveal controllability, check pilot Les Morris auto-rotated the platform. Then on April 20, 1942, the XR-Four was flown earlier than an viewers representing quite a lot of pursuits. The spectacular demonstration included the XR-Four’s vertical capabilities, comparable to ascents and descents, and the power to hover in addition to flying backward and sideways. The potential for amphibious operations was augured with the addition of floats, enabling each landings and takeoffs from land and water. A passenger entered and exited the hovering XR-Four by use of a rope ladder, providing a glimpse into rotary wing rescues. The way forward for battle zone transport was forecast when Sikorsky’s design hoisted a payload of greater than 700 kilos.

The demonstration was adopted by a dialogue on attainable roles and missions for the helicopter similar to medical evacuation, mild transport of personnel and shops, aerial artillery hearth course, aerial images, statement and reconnaissance, rescue duties, wire laying, and different duties.

The profitable April demonstration set the stage for a record-breaking flight by a rotary wing plane. The Military needed the XR-Four flown from the Sikorsky plant in Stratford, Connecticut, to Wright Area in Dayton. Up so far, the XR-Four had been hardly a mile from the meeting line in Stratford. Morris made quite a few brief hops to ensure the helicopter was mechanically sound, and on Might 13, 1942, he lifted off.

Manufacturing unit personnel tailed Morris in a automotive, providing instruments, spare elements, and help. Nevertheless, Morris made it to Dayton, touching down on Might 17 after masking greater than 760 miles in 5 days. Complete elapsed flight time was 16 hours and 10 minutes. The longest stretch was in Ohio, from Mansfield to Springfield, 92 miles flown in a single hour and 50 minutes. Following this spectacular demonstration, the Military agreed to simply accept supply on Might 20.

The Military ordered 15 XR-Four fashions for improvement. One other 14 XR-4s adopted in January 1943. Later that very same yr a manufacturing contract for 100 R-4Bs was issued by the U.S. Military Air Forces.

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Gregory of the Military Air Forces was an avid proponent of the helicopter. He’s reputed to have suggested Igor Sikorsky to vary the tri-rotor tail meeting on the VS-316 to a single rotor. On Might 6 and seven, 1943, Lt. Col. Gregory endeavored to show that the helicopter might function from a ship. A tanker, the Bunker Hill, was anchored in Lengthy Island Sound, a few miles east of Stratford Level Mild. Working to and from a 78-foot lengthy part of the tanker’s deck, Gregory took off and landed 23 occasions, proving the helicopter might function from ships at sea.

Helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky took to the air in his tethered VS-300 helicopter on September 14, 1939. Sikorsky’s test flight program proved that helicopters were efficient and controllable in flight.

Helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky took to the air in his tethered VS-300 helicopter on September 14, 1939. Sikorsky’s check flight program proved that helicopters have been environment friendly and controllable in flight.

The Coast Guard, too, carried out yeoman service within the improvement of the helicopter, and Commander Frank A. Erickson proved an keen advocate, believing that the potential inherent within the helicopter afforded it benefits over fixed-wing plane when monitoring or shadowing submarines. Helicopters might hover, function vertically and horizontally, and drop sonar buoys or depth expenses. Escort vessels or service provider ships might carry helicopters, supplementing escort carriers assigned to convoy safety.

Erickson additionally noticed within the helicopter the agent of mercy for the wounded. And he was capable of show this supposition in a Sikorsky HNS-1 (R-Four).

At 0615 hours, January three, 1944, the destroyer USS Turner (DD-648), whereas driving at anchor in Ambrose Channel off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, was rocked by an explosion close to the quantity 2 5-inch journal and dealing with room. Fires raged ahead, and the tincan turned an inferno. Many males have been killed, together with the Turner’s skipper, Lt. Cmdr. Henry S. Wygant. Then a second detonation, this time close to the number one 5-inch journal and dealing with room, despatched flames racing via the stricken ship. Oily plumes of smoke roiled off Sandy Hook. In minutes 20mm prepared ammunition started to blow up, sending tracers skyward. The destroyer settled into the shallows at 0827, taking 15 officers and 138 sailors to a watery grave. Simply two officers and 163 bluejackets remained, many horribly burned.

Stricken sailors have been rushed to the hospital in Sandy Hook. Owing to the character of the accidents, provides of plasma shortly ran low. Enter Lieutenant Frank A. Erickson, who secured two instances of plasma to the floats of his HNS-1 and lifted off. By means of gusty winds and driving snow, the intrepid Coast Guardsman weaved his approach by means of the concrete canyons of New York Metropolis. He reached Sandy Hook and touched down. Erickson saved many a sailor in what’s reputed to be the primary lifesaving mission flown by a helicopter.

However the Coast Guard can’t take all of the bows. The primary rotary wing fight rescue in historical past goes to the Military Air Forces, April 26-27, 1944.

On April 21, 1944, Technical Sergeant Ed Hladovcak crashed his L-1 Vigilant statement aircraft in Burma, miles behind Japanese strains. Aboard have been three British commandos, all of whom have been wounded. A prowling L-5 Sentinel liaison plane overflew the crash website, however there was no place set down for a rescue.

Sergeant Hladovcak and his costs melted into the jungle. Japanese troopers swarmed the wreck. They discovered no our bodies and commenced to beat the bushes for survivors. Hladovcak and the commandos held their collective breath as Japanese troopers poked and prodded the undergrowth.

Later within the day, an L-5 from the first Air Commandos pinpointed the quarry, and the pilot dropped a notice: “Transfer up mountain. Japanese close by.” One other message drop informed of a sandbar on a close-by river, which had been secured by British commandos and was giant sufficient for an L-5 to set down and decide up the stranded males.

The situation of the wounded worsened, which meant a trek by way of the jungle was out of the query. So Colonel Philip Cochran, famed commanding officer of the first Air Commandos, decided. “Ship the eggbeater in!”

Earlier that month, 4 helicopters, along with crews and mechanics, arrived in Lalaghat, India, hooked up to the first Air Commandos. Inside weeks, owing to mechanical deficiencies and crashes, just one was nonetheless flying. This left Lieutenant Carter Harmon as the only rotary wing pilot flying the one helicopter obtainable.

Harmon was ordered to take off from Lalaghat and head for Taro in northern Burma, a trek of 600 miles. This was 500 miles past the vary of the R-Four. Harmon acquired 4 Jerry cans of gasoline, giving him one other 21 gallons.

Harmon lifted off for the primary leg of the journey. The eggbeater handed its first actual check by clearing a 5,000-foot-high mountain vary. Between refueling stops, it took Harmon one other 24 hours to succeed in Taro.

Commander Frank Erickson pilots a Sikorsky HNS-1 helicopter with British Royal Air Force markings in early January 1944. This photo was taken around the time that Erickson delivered lifesaving blood plasma to survivors of the destroyer USS Turner.

Commander Frank Erickson pilots a Sikorsky HNS-1 helicopter with British Royal Air Pressure markings in early January 1944. This photograph was taken across the time that Erickson delivered lifesaving blood plasma to survivors of the destroyer USS Turner.

Harmon was ordered to proceed one other 125 miles south to a short lived touchdown strip generally known as Aberdeen, a 1st Air Commando base behind Japanese strains. To provide Harmon an edge, mechanics scrounged a fuel tank from an L-5 and put in it within the R-Four. Harmon took off, arriving at Aberdeen on the morning of the 25th. The plan referred to as for Harmon to go away Aberdeen and rendezvous with the ready L-5 on the sandbar. From there, Harmon must extricate the unfortunates and return to the sandbar for the L-5 to fly them out. Harmon must traverse a jungle infested with Japanese, trying an untried idea in an inhospitable surroundings in an plane that, at this juncture, was suspect at greatest. Harmon might carry only one passenger at a time. Burma’s extreme warmth and humidity so restricted the YR-4B that Harmon might barely hover with solely himself on board.

Harmon employed a way acquainted to lots of in the present day’s helicopter pilots who’ve survived comparable conditions. Jerking the vertical raise controls prompted the helicopter to pop momentarily within the air. Nosing the plane ahead shortly however gently from the highest of this pop would in all probability present enough ahead velocity and airlift to fly away if he didn’t crash first. Harmon’s “subject expedient” takeoff was profitable. Harmon plucked one in every of three commandos and shuttled him to the ready Stinson. Then he went again for an additional. He had no hassle retrieving his second passenger, however upon arriving on the touchdown zone there was a sickening “clunk” adopted by a odor that indicated hassle. The engine was overheating. Harmon set the R-Four down. Sikorsky’s creation wanted to chill. Harmon and the eggbeater spent the night time on the sandbar.

A low ceiling greeted the brand new day. In any other case, the climate was favorable. Harmon picked up the remaining commando, dropped him on the rendezvous, after which began again for the final man, Ed Hladovcak.

The downed airman heard the strategy of his taxi to freedom. Harmon cleared the timber and commenced to descend. Instantly, uniforms broke from the tree line. Harmon waved frantically and shouted. Japanese troops have been closing in.

Harmon touched down. Hladovcak jumped in. The Sikorsky lifted closely from the jungle flooring. The enemy troopers swarmed beneath the chopper. Then the R-Four appeared to heave as if able to convulse. The 2 males held their collective breath. There was no clunk, no aroma of catastrophe. Each rescuer and rescued have been on their method. Harmon flew Hladovcak again to Aberdeen.

There was a tragi-comic irony to Hladovcak’s rescue. The troops overrunning the touchdown zone weren’t Japanese, however Chindits braving the jungle in a useless try and ship those that had been trapped.

Harmon’s feat set in movement a development. Different rescues adopted because the helicopter was starting to show itself on the battlefield, gaining converts and producing curiosity in that ungainly plane Phil Cochran had so winsomely referred to as the eggbeater.

However the helicopter’s case can be fueled, partially, with the arrival of a weapon that might change the face of conflict, the atomic bomb. In July 1946, Operation Crossroads, the atomic exams at Bikini Atoll started. Amongst these in attendance was Lt. Gen. Roy S. Geiger, commander of the Fleet Marine Pressure within the Pacific. Geiger was an skilled amphibious assault officer, having commanded the III Amphibious Corps. Geiger didn’t consider that the USA would retain its monopoly on the atomic bomb. On August 21, 1946, he wrote to Common Alexander Vandergrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps:

This cutaway drawing of the Sikorsky  R-4 reveals the mechanics of this early generation helicopter.

This cutaway drawing of the Sikorsky
R-Four reveals the mechanics of this early era helicopter.

“Since our possible future enemy can be in possession of this weapon, it’s my opinion that a full evaluate and research of our idea of amphibious operations should be made…. It’s fairly evident that a small variety of atomic bombs might destroy an expeditionary drive as now organized, embarked and landed…. I can’t visualize one other touchdown comparable to was executed at Normandy or Okinawa.”

This communication led to a particular board headed by Maj. Gen. Lemeul C. Shepherd, Jr.

The target was to analysis the impact of atomic weapons on amphibious operations. The outcome was the idea of vertical assault counting on rotary wing plane as an alternative choice to shifting troops from ship to shore in amphibious operations.

The Military, too, would comply with go well with. Through the Korean Struggle, the helicopter was used to maneuver shops and provides, evacuate wounded, and shuttle troops to and from the battlefront.

In 1944, Lieutenant Carter Harmon confirmed the potential of the helicopter as soon as once more within the steaming jungles of Burma. Twenty years later, the helicopter would go on to develop into the poster youngster for the American effort in Vietnam. Sikorsky’s R-Four set the essential design cue for helicopters to the current day. Starting with the cockpit, plexiglass was featured all through. Doorways with roll-up home windows offered entry and exit from all sides of the cockpit. Seating was aspect by aspect, however the pilot was positioned on the appropriate. When the R-Four was used for coaching, the trainer moved to the left seat whereas the scholar pilot sat on the best aspect.

The 200 horsepower Warner Tremendous Scarab, 7- cylinder, air-cooled radial powerplant sat simply abaft the cockpit. Mounted backward, a drive shaft stretched rearward and related to a brief drive shaft operating to the primary gearbox. Shafts from the gearbox drove the primary and tail rotors.

The fuselage was of two-piece development bolted collectively simply aft of the powerplant. “The aft construction was virtually solely spherical metal tubing, however the ahead half additionally included square-section metal tubing and picket stringers,” commented one plane skilled. “The after framework was coated with doped material to scale back drag. Zippers have been sewn into the material at numerous places to permit entry to elements for inspection and upkeep. The ahead construction, containing the engine compartment and cockpit, was coated with detachable panels created from skinny sheets of dural (hardened aluminum alloy) or magnesium alloy. The fuselage framework was constructed virtually solely of 4130 chrome-molybdenum metal skinny wall tubing.”

The XR-Four was initially designed with three tail rotors, a single vertical tail rotor flanked by a pair of horizontal rotors. This configuration gave approach to a single vertical antitorque rotor. The primary rotor was three blades, 38 ft in diameter and tapered. “The blades have been primarily of picket development,” stated writer Thomas H. Lawrence. “The primary rotor blade had a metal tube on the quarter chord location. Ribs, built-up from plywood, have been positioned alongside the spar utilizing brackets to carry towards the centrifugal pressure. The ahead a part of the airfoil was coated with this plywood to offer a clean floor and improve stiffness, whereas the aft half was coated with material to scale back weight and keep the blade center-of-gravity ahead of the quarter chord location. The coaching edges of the ribs have been tied collectively by metal strapping to take care of the airfoil contour and resist edgewise bending brought on by Coriolis forces.”

Mechanics assemble YR-4B helicopters somewhere in the China-Burma-India Theater. Although the helicopter was just entering service during World War II, the performance  of the rotary aircraft made a distinct impression  on those who saw it in action.

Mechanics assemble YR-4B helicopters someplace within the China-Burma-India Theater. Though the helicopter was simply getting into service throughout World Warfare II, the efficiency of the rotary plane made a definite impression on those that noticed it in motion.

The touchdown gear of the R-Four featured a tail wheel plus two different wheels mounted on struts that have been affixed to every aspect of the fuselage abaft the pilot and observer. A skid was obtainable for the nostril to stop rollovers, or the wheels could possibly be eliminated and changed by a pair of pontoons.

Writer Mark Albertson resides in Norwalk, Connecticut. He final contributed to WWII
Historical past on the Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression pact of 1939.