The Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter. (Sikorsky)
Air Force pilots conducted their first flight of the Sikorsky HH-60W, slated to be the service’s new combat rescue helicopter to replace the aging HH-60G Pave Hawks.
The 413th Flight Test Squadron flew the new model at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, on July 11, according to the Air Force.
“Our entire team has been focused on bringing together a lot of moving parts to get here today,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Dirkes, 413th FLTS operations officer. “We are really excited to be a part of recapitalizing a vital component of our warfighting strategy.”
The crew performed an instrumentation and telemetry checkout with the control room, gathered basic engine start data and flew referred gross weight level flight speed sweeps between 40 knots and maximum horizontal speed, according to Dirkes.
“Performance testing requires extremely precise aircraft control, and our test pilot maintained tolerances of plus or minus one knot of airspeed, 20 feet of altitude and less than 100 feet per minute vertical speed, flying by hand,” Dirkes explained.
Maj. Andrew Fama, a 413th FLTS test pilot, was the first Air Force pilot to fly the HH-60W.
"I’m honored to be the first Air Force pilot to fly the ‘Whiskey’ and very excited to deliver a new aircraft to my rescue brothers and sisters,” Fama said.
The HH-60W took its maiden flight on May 17, with a second development aircraft lifting off on May 23. Sikorsky has logged more than 30 hours of shakedown flight time on these two aircraft, according to the company. But this milestone marks the beginning of integrated government and contractor flight test operations.
This fall, the 413th’s HH-60W operations are scheduled to begin at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.