The U.S. Marine Corps has developed a fix to extend the service life of its Sikorsky CH-53Es until the new CH-53K replaces them starting in Fiscal 2014.
A life limit of 6,120 hr on the -53E transition bulkhead, a complex, desktop-sized panel where the tail boom folds, threatened to force the Super Stallions out of service starting in 2010 at the rate of 10 a year. Their use accelerated after Sept. 11, 2001, creating the gap between their service lives and the -53K’s arrival. The Marines are already short on heavy lift. Replacing the bulkheads was thought at first to be prohibitively expensive, but engineers and mechanics at the Fleet Readiness Center East at Cherry Point, N.C., figured out how to make and install a new one for less than $200,000 an aircraft.
Cherry Point will install new transition bulkheads as CH-53Es come in for heavy maintenance. This should add about 4,000 flight hours to each aircraft’s service life, extending it beyond the -53K’s introduction. Sikorsky is building 31 new bulkheads. — By Richard Whittle