Helicopter 66

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Helicopter 66
SH-3D Sea King of HS-4 recovers Apollo 11 astronaut on 24 July 1969.jpg
Helicopter 66 pictured in 1969
Other name(s)"Old 66", [1] Helicopter 740
TypeHelicopter
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
SerialBuNo 152711 [1]
Owners and operators U.S. Navy
In service1968–1975
Last flightJune 4, 1975
Total hours3,245.2
FateCrashed and sank in the Pacific Ocean

Helicopter 66 is a United States Navy Sikorsky Sea King helicopter used during the late 1960s for the water recovery of astronauts during the Apollo program. It has been called "one of the most famous, or at least most iconic, helicopters in history", was the subject of a 1969 song by Manuela and was made into a die-cast model by Dinky Toys. In addition to its work in support of NASA, Helicopter 66 also transported the Shah of Iran during his 1973 visit to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force.

Helicopter Type of rotor craft in which lift and thrust are supplied by rotors

A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forward, backward, and laterally. These attributes allow helicopters to be used in congested or isolated areas where fixed-wing aircraft and many forms of VTOL aircraft cannot perform.

Apollo program Manned U.S. lunar missions from 1966–1972

The Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was the third United States human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which succeeded in landing the first humans on the Moon from 1969 to 1972. First conceived during Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which put the first Americans in space, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in an address to Congress on May 25, 1961. It was the third US human spaceflight program to fly, preceded by the two-man Project Gemini conceived in 1961 to extend spaceflight capability in support of Apollo.

Contents

Helicopter 66 was delivered to the U.S. Navy in 1967 and formed part of the inventory of U.S. Navy Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Four for the duration of its active life. Among its pilots during this period was Donald S. Jones, who would go on to command the United States Third Fleet. Later re-numbered Helicopter 740, the aircraft crashed in the Pacific Ocean in 1975 during a training exercise. At the time of its crash, it had logged more than 3,200 hours of service.

HSC-4 United States Navy helicopter squadron

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Four (HSC-4), also known as the Black Knights, is a multi-role combat helicopter squadron of the United States Navy based at Naval Air Station North Island which operates Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk helicopters deployed aboard aircraft carriers. The squadron was originally established as HS-4 on 30 June 1952 at U.S. Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Imperial Beach with the Sikorsky HO3S-1 and was redesignated HSC-4 on March 29, 2012. It is currently assigned to Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) which deploys aboard USS Carl Vinson

Vice Admiral Donald S. Jones was a United States Navy admiral.

United States Third Fleet

The United States Third Fleet is one of the numbered fleets in the United States Navy. Third Fleet's area of responsibility includes approximately fifty million square miles of the eastern and northern Pacific ocean areas including the Bering Sea, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and a sector of the Arctic. Major oil and trade sea lines of communication within this area are critically important to the economic health of the United States and friendly nations throughout the Pacific Rim region.

Design

Helicopter 66 pictured during the Apollo 10 recovery in 1969 Apollo 10 Helicopter Recovery - GPN-2000-001143.jpg
Helicopter 66 pictured during the Apollo 10 recovery in 1969

Helicopter 66 was a Sikorsky Sea King SH-3D. [2] The SH-3D model Sea Kings were designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and were typically configured to carry a crew of four and up to three passengers. [3] Powered by two General Electric T58-GE-10 turboshaft engines producing up to 1,400 horsepower (1,000 kW) each, SH-3Ds had a maximum airspeed of 120 knots (220 km/h; 140 mph) and a mission endurance averaging 4.5 hours. [3] [4] They had a maximum allowable weight of 20,500 pounds (9,300 kg) with the ability to carry an external payload of up to 6,000 pounds (2,700 kg). [3]

Anti-submarine warfare Branch of naval warfare

Anti-submarine warfare is a branch of underwater warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, or other submarines to find, track, and deter, damage, or destroy enemy submarines.

General Electric American multinational conglomerate corporation

General Electric Company (GE) is an American multinational conglomerate incorporated in New York and headquartered in Boston. As of 2018, the company operates through the following segments: aviation, healthcare, power, renewable energy, digital industry, additive manufacturing, venture capital and finance, lighting, and oil and gas.

Horsepower unit of power

Horsepower (hp) is a unit of measurement of power, or the rate at which work is done. There are many different standards and types of horsepower. Two common definitions being used today are the mechanical horsepower, which is about 745.7 watts, and the metric horsepower, which is approximately 735.5 watts.

During ASW missions, the Sea King SH-3D was typically armed with MK-46/44 torpedoes. [3]

Mark 46 torpedo light-weight anti-submarine torpedo

The Mark 46 torpedo is the backbone of the United States Navy's lightweight anti-submarine warfare torpedo inventory and is the NATO standard. These aerial torpedoes are designed to attack high-performance submarines. In 1989, an improvement program for the Mod 5 to the Mod 5A and Mod 5A(S) increased its shallow-water performance. The Mark 46 was initially developed as REsearch TORpedo Concept I, one of several weapons recommended for implementation by Project Nobska, a 1956 summer study on submarine warfare.

History

Early history and Apollo missions

Helicopter 66 was delivered to the U.S. Navy on March 4, 1967, and, in 1968, was added to the inventory of U.S. Navy Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Four (HS-4). [2] Its original tail number was NT-66/2711. [5]

Activated on June 30, 1952, Squadron Four – "the Black Knights" – was the first anti-submarine warfare helicopter squadron of the U.S. Navy to deploy aboard an aircraft carrier when, in 1953, it operated from USS Rendova. [6] It began using the Sea King SH-3D in 1968, transitioning from the SH-3A model. [6] That year, the squadron was assigned to Carrier Anti-Submarine Air Group 59 and deployed aboard USS Yorktown to the Sea of Japan (East Sea) in response to the capture of USS Pueblo by the Korean People's Navy. [6] Later that year, Yorktown—and Squadron Four—was tasked to support the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the oceanic recovery of returning astronauts. [2] [6] [lower-alpha 1]

USS <i>Rendova</i> ship

USS Rendova (CVE-114) was a Commencement Bay class escort carrier of the United States Navy.

USS <i>Yorktown</i> (CV-10) 1943 Essex-class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy

USS Yorktown (CV/CVA/CVS-10) is one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. She was named after the Battle of Yorktown of the American Revolutionary War, and is the fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name. Initially to have been named Bonhomme Richard, she was renamed Yorktown while still under construction to commemorate the loss of USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Yorktown was commissioned in April 1943, and participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation.

Sea of Japan Marginal sea between Japan, Russia and Korea

The Sea of Japan is the marginal sea between the Japanese archipelago, Sakhalin, the Korean Peninsula and Russia. The Japanese archipelago separates the sea from the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered by Japan, Korea and Russia. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific Ocean. This isolation also reflects in the fauna species and in the water salinity, which is lower than in the ocean. The sea has no large islands, bays or capes. Its water balance is mostly determined by the inflow and outflow through the straits connecting it to the neighboring seas and Pacific Ocean. Few rivers discharge into the sea and their total contribution to the water exchange is within 1%.

The Apollo 8 crew disembarks Helicopter 66 aboard USS Yorktown following their return to Earth in 1968 Helicopter 66 Apollo 8.jpg
The Apollo 8 crew disembarks Helicopter 66 aboard USS Yorktown following their return to Earth in 1968

During the Apollo 8, Apollo 10, and Apollo 11 missions, Helicopter 66 was the primary recovery vehicle which hoisted returning astronauts from the spacecraft command modules. [2] [8] As a result, it was featured prominently in television news coverage and still photography, achieving—in the words of space historian Dwayne A. Day—the status of "one of the most famous, or at least most iconic, helicopters in history". [2] [9] Commander Donald S. Jones, who would later command the United States Third Fleet, piloted Helicopter 66 during its inaugural astronaut recovery mission following Apollo 8, and again during the Apollo 11 recovery. [10]

Following the Apollo 11 mission, the Navy switched to a three-digit designation system and Helicopter 66 was retagged Helicopter 740. [2] Recognizing the fame Helicopter 66 had achieved, the Navy began the practice of repainting Helicopter 740 as Helicopter 66 for the later recovery missions in which it participated, Apollo 12 and Apollo 13, painting it back as Helicopter 740 at the conclusion of each mission. [2] [11] During the period of its use for astronaut recovery, Helicopter 66 bore victory markings on its fuselage showing a space capsule silhouette, with one being added for each recovery in which it participated. [12] For the recovery of the Apollo 11 astronauts, the underside of the fuselage was emblazoned with the words "Hail, Columbia". [13] [lower-alpha 2]

List of Helicopter 66 Apollo recovery flights

MissionFlight dateBase shipPilotReference
Apollo 8 December 27, 1968 USS Yorktown Donald S. Jones [2] [16]
Apollo 10 May 29, 1969 USS Princeton Chuck B. Smiley [2]
Apollo 11 July 24, 1969 USS Hornet Donald S. Jones [2]
Apollo 12 November 24, 1969 USS Hornet Warren E. Aut [2]
Apollo 13 April 17, 1970 USS Iwo Jima Chuck B. Smiley [2]

Later history and crash

By 1973 Helicopter Squadron Four, and Helicopter 66 with it, were embarked aboard USS Kitty Hawk. [6] That year, Helicopter 66 transported the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to Kitty Hawk for a shipboard visit while it transited the Indian Ocean. [6] [17]

At 7:00 p.m. on June 4, 1975, Helicopter 66, renumbered as '740', [18] departed Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach near San Diego, California, en route to the U.S. Navy's Helo Offshore Training Area to conduct a regularly scheduled, three-hour nighttime anti-submarine training exercise. [2] [19] During the operation, in which it was carrying a full complement of four crew, the helicopter crashed. [2] [19] Though the crew was subsequently rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, pilot Leo Rolek was critically injured and later died of the wounds he sustained in the crash. [2] [19] The exact cause of the downing of Helicopter 66 is unknown; as of 2017 the U.S. Navy incident report remains largely classified. [20] The broken fuselage of the helicopter later sank in 800 fathoms (1,500 m) of water. [19] At the time of its crash, Helicopter 66 had flown 3,245.2 flight hours since being brought into service, and 183.6 hours since its last overhaul. [20]

The submerged helicopter remains the property of the U.S. Navy, and a 2004 effort by private interests to recover it for preservation was not realized. [2] [20]

A Sikorsky Sea King painted in Helicopter 66 livery and owned by the National Museum of Naval Aviation, on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in 2011 Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (6586631957).jpg
A Sikorsky Sea King painted in Helicopter 66 livery and owned by the National Museum of Naval Aviation, on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in 2011

Legacy

Portion of the painting Recovery Helicopter 66 by Tom O'Hara Helicopter 66, portion of a painting by Tom O'Hara.png
Portion of the painting Recovery Helicopter 66 by Tom O'Hara

A painting of Helicopter 66 was commissioned in 1969 from artist Tom O'Hara as part of a NASA art initiative. [21] It was subsequently placed in the custody of the National Air and Space Museum. [21]

In September 1969 German singer Manuela released a single titled "Helicopter U.S. Navy 66" which features the sound of helicopter rotors. [22] The song was covered the next year by the Belgian pop singer Samantha, and was credited with helping launch her career. [23] In a 2007 interview, the popularity of "Helicopter U.S. Navy 66" as a closing song at dance clubs in 1970s Belgium was cited by the Belgian Schlager vocalist Laura Lynn as the inspiration for her hit "Goud". [24]

During the early 1970s Dinky Toys released a die-cast model of a Sea King helicopter in Helicopter 66 livery. [25] The model included a working winch which could lift a plastic space capsule toy. [25]

Replicas of Helicopter 66 are on display at the USS Hornet Museum and the USS Midway Museum. [2] The helicopter at the USS Hornet Museum is a retired Navy Sikorsky Sea King painted in Helicopter 66 markings, used to represent Helicopter 66 in the motion picture Apollo 13 . [26] A Sikorsky Sea King painted in Helicopter 66 livery is also held by the National Museum of Naval Aviation. [27]

See also

Notes

  1. Early U.S. manned spaceflights used water landings during return to Earth due to the minimum additional technology needed to outfit the spacecraft. [7] The command capsule required only parachutes to slow its descent sufficiently for a survivable landing on a "soft" surface like water, instead of the retrorockets that would be required for a landing on a "hard" surface like land. [7]
  2. The name of the Apollo 11 command capsule was "Columbia" and President of the United States Richard Nixon, who was personally embarked aboard USS Hornet for the recovery, had ordered the Band of the COMNAVAIRPAC to perform "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" during the recovery. [14] [15]

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