Sikorsky CH-54B 'Tarhe' (S-64B 'Skycrane')
Courtesy of the United States Army Aviation Museum
The S-64 Skycrane is a twin-engined heavy-lift helicopter designed by Sikorsky for the U.S. Army. It was first flown in May, 1962 and was an enlarged and upgraded version of Sikorsky's first flying crane, the S-60. The initial "A" version had a 20,000 lb. payload capacity that was increased to 25,000 lbs. with the later "B" version and could lift, haul and deliver cargo on a sling or in a cargo pod under its fuselage. It also had an aft-facing pilot station that gave an unobstructed view of the load being carried and allowed for positive control of the aircraft during precision operations.
Designated the CH-54 "Tarhe" by the U.S. Army, they were used in Vietnam beginning in 1965 and quickly proved their value as a flying crane by routinely lifting outsized and weighty cargo such as artillery pieces, armored vehicles and recovered aircraft. Notably it was credited with retrieving over 380 damaged aircraft. The cargo pod also proved useful as they could carry troops or equipment, serve as a mobile hospital or as a command post. They even were used as bombers to create instant helicopter landing zones.
During the late 1960's and early 1970's, the CH-54 was replaced in the Army's inventory by the CH-47 "Chinook" and the remaining craft were transferred to the Army Reserve and National Guard. The aircraft was retired from military service in 1995. The Museum's CH-54B was last flown by the Army Aviation Unit located at Bradley Airport.
Sikorsky made an effort to market the S-64 commercially with a total of 10 sold or leased. Seven went to Erickson Air-Crane of Medford, Oregon for logging operations and firefighting. In 1992 Sikorsky sold the all manufacturing and support rights to Erickson who now produce the S-64 Aircrane that is still in use today.