The Sikorsky (model S-64A) CH-54A/CH54B "Skycrane", with a crew of
three, was designed for heavy internal or external lift of heavy bulk loads. It
had a rear-facing pilot's seat to provide a clear view of the cargo. A hoist was
provided to allow pickups and deliveries without landing. A lightweight van
(universal pod) could be attached to the fuselage for use as a mobile command
post, maintenance and repair shop, or as a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH).
The field hospital was equipped with X-Ray, lab equipment, and blood bank. It
was well lighted and air conditioned so surgery could be performed wherever it
was needed. A "people pod" was designed to carry 45 combat-ready
troops. The " Skycrane" served with the 1st Cavalry Division in
Vietnam. The CH-54 was used in aircraft recovery operations when loads were too
heavy for the CH-47 Chinook. It was also useful for offloading during
ship-to-shore operations. The CH-54 could also be rigged to drop the large
10,000 lb. ‘daisy-cutter’cratering bomb used to create landing zones ("LZs")
in dense jungle.
The T-54A Tahre had a six-bladed main rotor, four-bladed metal
tail rotor, was powered by two Pratt & Whitney T73 -P-1 4500 shp turbine
engines, and had a speed of 128 mph (111 knots). The CH-54B was powered by two
Pratt & Whitney T73-P-700 4800 sph turbine engines.
It was the proven value of the CH-47
and CH-54 in Vietnam that prompted the USA to order a much larger HLH
(heavy-lift helicopter), the Boeing Vertol YCH-61A, with payload of 45,000 lb
(20412 kg) in the initial version. As soon as the Vietnam involvement was over
this seemingly important machine was cancelled.
CH-54 "Skycrane" recovering