NAVAIR Hosts First Orientation Flight in a CH-53K King Stallion
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, hosted a ‘first of its kind’ orientation flight in the CH-53K King Stallion for Brig. Gen. Nir Nin-Nun, Israeli Air Force, commander, Air Support and Helicopter Division, during a test flight Nov. 7, NAVAIR said in a Nov. 15 release.
The 90-minute orientation flight included various operational maneuvers, landings and takeoffs, providing Nin-Nun a firsthand look at the unique and capabilities of the CH-53K available through full authority fly-by-wire flight controls.
“This is the first time we have flown an international ally in the CH-53K,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Hank Vanderborght, program manager for the H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters program office, PMA-261. “Flights like this give us an opportunity to strengthen relationships with our allies while sharing a taste of America’s next generation heavy lift helicopter.”
The flight was arranged based on a government-to-government request from Nin-Nun and made possible through a contract modification between Sikorsky and NAVAIR.
“[It was a] a great honor being hosted by the Marines and having a chance to fly on two outstanding platforms as we ramp up to decide on our future heavy lift,” Nin-Nun said.
The orientation flight was conducted during an already planned test flight and piloted by Stephen McCulley, Sikorsky chief experimental test pilot. Prior to the flight, Brig. Gen. Nin-Nun completed a familiarization flight in the simulator and safety brief prior to take-off.
The two-day visit also included simulator flights, relevant program briefs, and a tour of the NAVAIR Internal Cargo Lab.
Currently, there are four Engineering Development and Manufacturing Model aircraft in test and one Ground Test Vehicle, which have logged more than 606 cumulative flight hours. Initial operational capability remains on pace for 2019 and is defined as having four aircraft, with combat-ready crews logistically prepared to deploy. The Defense Departments program of record remains at 200 aircraft, a requirement validated by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council.