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The Jolly Green Giant approaches

27 March 2013

The Jolly Green Giant approaches

— photo by Joseph May

Sikorsky HH-53 Jolly Green Giant in a gradual descent to landing (uncertain as to the purpose of the white squarish rig on the under surface is)  — photo by Joseph May

Military helicopters differ from conventional military combat aircraft in a subtle but significant and often unrecognized way — they are forged to continuously work in an extremely rigorous flight regime. None inherently fly though they can dance like a dragonfly, hardly any can be called graceful but nearly all can execute a hard reversing turn decelerating from 150 mph to zero in a matter of seconds to insert troops, and most cargo type helicopters are equipped with rescue hoists. The Sikorsky HH-53 Jolly Green Giant routinely has flown deep into unfriendly territory to rescue downed pilots or combat teams. The flight crew can make use of the hoist as well as a rear ramp, often they have and in the foulest of weather as well as hottest of landing zones.

— photo by Joseph May

Copilot  looking down and aft during the landing — photo by Joseph May

This USAF Jolly Green Giant is coming in for a graceful landing at an airshow during the early 1980s, still in Vietnam War Era livery, likely with a flight crew of two pilots and one or two additional crewmen. During a combat rescue mission USAF PJs (combat rescue specialists) would also be aboard. Many PJs carry the tracks of the mythical Jolly Green Giant — tiny green feet tattoos — but you would likely have them drop “trou” to prove it, so be careful with your choices 😉

— photo by Joseph May

Copilot aiding the pilot to a soft landing by reporting the height the main wheels are above the tarmac— photo by Joseph May

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jerry Kibby permalink
    22 September 2014 10:01

    FYI, the helicopter pictured is an H-3, not an H-53. More info available at

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      24 September 2014 20:35

      Hello. The H-3 is the Sea King and does not have a rear ramp as the HH-53 Jolly Green Giant does, as can be seen in the second photo. Thanks for the observation though — it is always good to check.

      • Pablo permalink
        15 January 2015 17:00

        More precisely – this is HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, deep modification of the Sea King (also similar version – USCG HH-3F Pelican). It has rear loading ramp, retractable tricycle landing gear. HH-53 was – ‘Super Jolly Green Giant’. Hope that helps.
        By the way – I am very curious as I haven’t seen this painting scheme on HH-3E. Do you have any picture of the tail boom with the number visible?

      • travelforaircraft permalink*
        15 January 2015 22:33

        You’ve helped very much and thanks. I’m on the road but next week I can look to see if I have a tail boom detail for you. This is interesting. Joe

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