Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane

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S-64 Skycrane / Aircrane
Erickson Air-Crane (N6962R) Sikorsky S-64E departing Wagga Wagga Airport (cropped).jpg
Erickson S-64E over Wagga Wagga Airport
Role Aerial crane
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
Erickson Inc.
First flight 9 May 1962
Status Active
Primary user Erickson Inc.
Number built 31[1]
Developed from Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe

The Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane is an American twin-engine heavy-lift helicopter. It is the civil version of the United States Army's CH-54 Tarhe. It is currently produced as the S-64 Aircrane by Erickson Inc.


Under Sikorsky[edit]

Helicopter N6962R "Olga" lifting part of the CN Tower antenna in Toronto, March 1975
Skycrane "Olga" lifting a CN Tower antenna segment

The Sikorsky S-64 was designed as an enlarged version of the prototype flying crane helicopter, the Sikorsky S-60. The S-64 had a six-blade main rotor and was powered by two 4,050 shaft horsepower (3,020 kW) Pratt & Whitney JFTD12A turboshaft engines. The prototype S-64 first flew on 9 May 1962 and was followed by two further examples for evaluation by the German armed forces.[2] The Germans did not place an order, but the United States Army placed an initial order for six S-64A helicopters (with the designation YCH-54A Tarhe). Seven S-64E variants were built by Sikorsky for the civil market.

In March 1975, a Skycrane was used to lift sections of the uppermost antenna structure of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.[3]

Under Erickson[edit]

Originally a Sikorsky Aircraft product, the type certificate and manufacturing rights were purchased from them by Erickson Air-Crane in 1992. Since that time, Erickson Air-Crane has become the manufacturer and world's largest operator of S-64 Aircranes and has made over 1,350 changes to the airframe, instrumentation, and payload capabilities of the helicopter. The Aircrane can be fitted with a 2,650 US gal (10,000 L) fixed retardant tank to assist in the control of bush fires, and it has proven itself admirably in this role. The helicopter is capable of refilling its entire tank of water in 45 seconds from a water slide 18 in (46 cm) thick.[4]

S-64 Aircranes have been sold to the Italian and Korean Forest Services for fire suppression and emergency response duties. Those in the Erickson Air-Crane fleet are leased worldwide to organizations, companies, and Federal Government agencies for either short-term or longer term use in fire suppression, civil protection, heavy lift construction, and timber harvesting. Erickson is manufacturing new S-64s, as well as remanufacturing existing CH-54s.

Erickson gives each of its S-64s an individual name, the best-known being "Elvis", used in fighting fires in Australia alongside "The Incredible Hulk" and "Isabelle". Other operators, such as Siller Brothers, have followed with their Sikorsky S-64E, Andy's Pride. The Erickson S-64E nicknamed "Olga" was used to lift the top section of the CN Tower into place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[citation needed]


Sikorsky Skycrane[edit]

An Erickson S-64 making a water drop
Twin-engined heavy-lift helicopter, 3 built. 1 rebuilt as S-64E.[5]
Six test and evaluation helicopters for the US Army.
Civil version of CH-54A, 7 built.


Upgraded CH-54A helicopters, plus one new build aircraft; 17 aircraft in total.[6]
Upgraded CH-54B helicopters; powered by two Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-5A engines; 13 aircraft in total.[7]
Proposed upgraded version with new engines, avionics, and optional piloting.[8]


S-64 dropping water on the Ahorn Fire in Montana
Italian Forest Service S-64F
 South Korea
 United States


  • N189AC "Gypsy Lady" – crashed in Ojai, California on 1 October 2006. While operating for the USFS The Erickson S-64 snagged a dip tank and the helicopter rolled over and crashed.[20]
  • N198AC "Shirley Jean" – S-64F; sold to European Air-Crane c.2006 as I-SEAD; crashed in Italy on 2007-04-26.[21] Aircraft was destroyed in a post-crash fire.[22]
  • N248AC "Aurora" – S-64E; named after Aurora State Airport, home to Columbia Helicopters, former owner of aircraft.[11] Crashed on 26 August 2004 in Corsica, killing its Canadian pilot and French co-pilot. The aircrane was chartered by the interior ministry to fight fires on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. It had been fighting a wildfire as it went down near the village of Ventiseri, trying to return to a nearby military base, due to technical problems associated with inflight breakup.[23][24]
  • N173AC "Christine" - S64E; ditched into a small dam within Melbourne's water catchment with no casualties during a firefighting operation in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia on 28 January 2019. The crew, consisting of 2 pilots and the flight engineer, were able to bail from the aircraft in 2-3m of water and swim to safety with no life-threatening injuries.

Specifications (S-64E)[edit]

Sikorsky-S-64 Drawing.svg

Data from The International Directory of Civil Aircraft[25]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot), plus one rear-facing aft-stick operator during external-load operations[a]
  • Capacity: up to 5 total people[b] / 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) payload
  • Length: 70 ft 3 in (21.41 m)
  • Height: 18 ft 7 in (5.66 m)
  • Empty weight: 19,234 lb (8,724 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 42,000 lb (19,051 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-4A (T73-P-1) turboshaft engines, 4,500 shp (3,400 kW) each
  • Main rotor diameter: 72 ft 0 in (21.95 m)
  • Main rotor area: 4,070 sq ft (378 m2)


  • Maximum speed: 109 kn (125 mph, 202 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 91 kn (105 mph, 169 km/h)
  • Range: 200 nmi (230 mi, 370 km) max fuel and reserves
  • Hover ceiling IGE S-64E: 10,600 ft (3,200 m)
  • Hover ceiling IGE S-64A: 9,700 ft (3,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,330 ft/min (6.8 m/s)

See also[edit]

Sikorsky installing monopole in Langkawi, Malaysia

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ The minimum crew is two and the aft-stick operation can be done by the co-pilot
  2. ^ The helicopter has five seats but the two observer seats can not be used during external load operations, if the aft-stick seat is used when not used for external-load operations then the controls have to be disengaged and guarded.


  1. ^ "Sikorsky s-64 CH-54 in USA: Erickson". Helis. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  2. ^ Jackson, Paul (1976). German Military Aviation 1956–1976. Midland Counties Publications. ISBN 0-904597-03-2.
  3. ^ "Topping of Tower".
  4. ^ "Firefighting Services - Erickson Incorporated". Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  5. ^ "S-64 c/n 64-003". Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  6. ^ "S-64E". Archived from the original on 27 May 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  7. ^ "CH-54B Tarhe". Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  8. ^ Reim, Garrett (29 January 2020). "Erickson to demo S-64 Air Crane flying autonomously using Sikorsky Matrix". Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  9. ^ "Korea Forest Service S-64". Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  10. ^ "KFS Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane". Demand media. Archived from the original on 3 June 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  11. ^ a b "Helispot photo". Helispot. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  12. ^ "the origins of Erickson Air-Crane". Erickson Air-Crane, Inc. 2013. Archived from the original on 29 March 2013. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  13. ^ "Evergreen S-64 spec. sheet" (PDF). Evergreen aviation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  14. ^ "HTS Fleet". Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  15. ^ "S-64 Aircranes for L.A.?". Archived from the original on 21 May 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  16. ^ "LAFD S-64". Archived from the original on 21 May 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  17. ^ "L.A. County S-64". Yahoo. Archived from the original on 21 May 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  18. ^ "Erickson Air-Crane buys Sun Bird aircraft from San Diego Gas & Electric". Helihub. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  19. ^ "Fleet". Siller helicopters. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  20. ^ "NTSB report (LAX07TA001)". Archived from the original on 14 January 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  21. ^ Helicopters area of (report excerpts in Italian) Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "NTSB report – NYC07WA152". 26 April 2007. Archived from the original on 19 February 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  23. ^ "NTSB report – WAS04WA012". 26 August 2004. Archived from the original on 31 July 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  24. ^ "NTSB probes Air-Crane crash – September 9, 2004". 9 September 2004. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  25. ^ Frawley, Gerard: The International Directiory of Civil Aircraft, 2003–2004, page 195. Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2003. ISBN 1-875671-58-7

External links[edit]

External image
image icon Line drawing of Skycrane