Sikorsky wins award for stormy cyclone marine helicopter tests

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The CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter being tested under high sea conditions (Image: Sikorsky)

The American Helicopter Society (AHS International) has recognized the “extraordinary international effort” involved in a 10-year flight test program performed by Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) and Sikorsky with an award.

The CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter’s 2,800-hour test campaign has included demonstration flights and the testing of shipboard operation from a Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate in rough seas.

The award cites the successful expansion of the flight envelope to Sea State 6 conditions, where waves reached a height of 20ft (6m) with winds up to 55kts (100 km/h).

The Leonardo International Fellowship Award was presented on May 16, 2018, to representatives from the Canadian Maritime Helicopter Project (CMHP) Combined Test Force at AHS International’s annual forum. The award recognizes significant contributions to international vertical flight cooperation.

William Falk, Sikorsky CMHP director, said, “The combined industry and government flight test team collaborated fully to demonstrate the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter’s anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare missions during some of the roughest winter weather imaginable.

“Successful demonstration of strict ship/helicopter capability is required before the Canadian government can deploy this helicopter weapon system.”

The CMHP Combined Test Force sailed five times into the waters off Nova Scotia from 2010-2017 during late December to early March when the weather conditions produced the necessary wave heights and winds.

In total, the team flew 270 hours and performed approximately 975 landings on the flight decks of the HMCS Montréal and HMCS Halifax.

Key features of the Cyclone have been tested, including a retractable probe on its belly, which is used to securely cinch the 29,300 lb aircraft to the ship’s flight deck in high sea states. Another feature successfully demonstrated is the ground support tool with an articulating arm that allows the deck crew to remotely align the aircraft’s nose prior to guiding the helicopter into the hangar.

A combined DND/Sikorsky aircrew also demonstrated the aircraft’s full authority fly-by-wire flight controls, which can hold the aircraft in a precise hover during high wind states.

Other tests included main rotor blade and tail pylon fold, hover-in-flight refuel, maintenance operations, torpedo loading and ship-to-ship replenishment. These operations also were demonstrated at night with and without night vision goggles.

The flight test program is expected to conclude in early 2019. The Royal Canadian Air Force will take delivery of the last of its 28 Sikorsky-designed and built CH-148 Cyclone aircraft by 2021 to replace the CH-124 Sea King helicopter fleet, which retires this year.

May 21, 2018

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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