New giant: first flight for CH-53K

The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter prototype, known as Engineering Development Model-1 (EDM-1), celebrated its first flight on Tuesday 27 October. The  flight of the new United States Marine Corps (USMC) heavylift chopper signals the beginning of a 2,000-hour flight test program using four test aircraft.  The flight comes after earlier delays over transmission system and gear box issues.

During its 30 minute maiden flight the EDM-1 aircraft performed hover, sideward, rearward and forward flight  control inputs while in ground effect hover up to 30  feet above the ground.  As the flight test program proceeds, the EDM-1 will be joined by an additional 3 EDM aircraft to fully expand the King Stallion’s flight envelope over the course of the three-year flight test program

“EDM-1’s first flight signifies another major milestone for the CH-53K helicopter program,” said Mike Torok, Sikorsky’s CH-53K Program Vice President. “Having independently tested the aircraft’s many components and subsystems, including integrated system level testing on the Ground Test Vehicle, we are now moving on to begin full aircraft system qualification via the flight test program.”

Features of the CH-53K helicopter include a modern glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth-generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low-maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking, United States Air Force pallet compatible cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and improved reliability, maintainability and supportability.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft with a Initial Operational Capability in 2019. The Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

Source: Sikorsky, with additional reporting by editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The CH-53K, seen moments after lift off. (Image © Sikorsky)