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Sikorsky S-58T — heavy lifting on a Sunday morning

4 October 2013

Sikorsky S-58T — heavy lifting on a Sunday morning

My father used to fly helicopters in the Army and he taught me three fundamentals about them:

  • They do not wish to fly so the pilot has to stay ahead of the aircraft at all times
  • There is no small problem on a helicopter when in flight
  • They are a blast to fly

They are also a blast to watch fly and especially so when Jim Triggs is piloting his Sikorsky S-58T as we witnessed last Sunday morning. Jim is the Chief Pilot and Director of Operations of Midwest Helicopter Airways, Inc. and the aircraft he flew that calm Sunday morning was a twin jet turbine conversion of the Korean War vintage design by Sikorsky many know as the H-34 Choctaw.

S-58T — photo by Joseph May

S-58T with an air conditioning unit slung below the fuselage — photo by Joseph May

The S-58T retains its original magnesium alloy fuselage as well as metal-over-wood tail rotor but it is the new engines that have remade this helicopter. Side-by-side twin Pratt & Whitney jet turbines have replaced the original single Wright radial reciprocating engine. These new engines sit low in the nose which has been redesigned to have an edged snout with twin, and distinctly characteristic, black rectangular engine air inlets. The exhaust is directed out of the left side, below and forward of the pilot. Yes, the pilot usually is on the left side of this helicopter — not the right side as in most U.S. made helicopters — since most aerial crane work is flown from the left side as the S-58T naturally tilts a bit to the left (greater visibility for the pilot and his aerial crane work).

S-58T — photo by Joseph May

S-58T after release of the cargo, note the tie straps as well as distinctive twin black rectangular air inlets on the nose — photo by Joseph May

Watching Jim work last Sunday morning was a joy. He lifted 170 times during a period of 4.6 hours which translates to 1.6 minutes per lift and all without hover assist. The work was to place air conditioning units on the roof of a newly built shopping mall — each air conditioning unit was lifted from the mall parking lot as a sling load beneath the S-58T and Jim flew each one a short distance to where it was to be installed. Jim was able to place each unit with a great deal of precision as ground crew assisted in orienting the cargo as he efficiently lowered them. That is 170 units installed in less than five hours — small wonder, then, why aerial cranes can be the best economical option for rooftop installation duty.

Jim Triggs also explained that he hovered with the nose pointed downwind as a matter of simple physics. The loads and winds were light so the 1800+ hp (746W) strong S-58T could be flown in straight lines to minimize turns and save time as well as effort. He also mentioned that heavier loads or winds and he would likely have hovered with the wind at his 11 o’clock. Refueling was handled by his crew running a fuel truck twice to Galaxy Aviation at Palm Beach International Airport for approximately 600 gallons in total.

Jim also relates they have a self-imposed load limit of 4500 pounds (2045kg) though the rated load is a tad higher. Cruising to the next job is usually accomplished at 110–115 knots (204–213kph).

S-58T — photo by Joseph May

S-58T delivering another air conditioning unit later in the day  and now with the main cabin door open — photo by Joseph May

Our thanks to Jim Triggs, Chief Pilot and Director of Operations for Midwest Helicopter Airways, Inc. for replying to our inquiries, he was more than kind in doing so, and he provided the information for this post — information that is first hand is the best.

You can see Jim Triggs and the Sikorsky S-58T in two videos on YouTube which were produced by Chuck Derer —  RideswithChuck Sikorsky 58T helicopter walk around and RideswithChuck Sikorsky 58T Helicopter We go for a ride.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 18 October 2013 10:58

    Wow this is great. I would’ve enjoyed seeing this live as I’ve never been able to before. The loads these guys can carry is amazing. Though I’ve seen videos of things going wrong and it always ends poorly when they do :/ Huge risk, but obviously this guy has skill! Thanks for posting.

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