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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

6 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

  2. Chester permalink
    30 April 2019 11:20

    The aircraft in your photos is 67-14719 the first helicopter I was crew chief on. She was assigned to the 20th SOS and was painted in that manner in support of a program called J-CATCH. The “square” as you call it is the low responce sling system for lifting external loads. Her and sadly part of her crew were lost off the coast of Okinawa many years ago.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      30 April 2019 15:18

      Thanks for this information. I’ll write of this in a new post quite soon. Thank you again as it is quite a good thing to memorialize history as well as those we have lost.

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