Sikorsky S-65/H-53 family

Already for decades the Sikorsky S-65, better known under its military designation H-53, is the heaviest helicopter of 'the west'. It is a large transport helicopter powered by two or three turboshaft engines, of which two are placed against the side of the fuselage, next to the gear box assembly, and the possible third in the left part of this housing, behind the rotor mast. All versions have large sponsons, of which the dimensions vary with the exact version. The two wheel main gears are retracted in them. The two wheel nose gear in placed close to the nose and retracts rearward. The fuselage of the S-65s is relatively long, and slopes up at the end, ending with a rear loading ramp. The top of the tail boom is flush with the top of the fuselage, al the way to the cockpit. At the end of it is a vertical stabiliser with the tail rotor on the left and horizontal stabiliser on the right, both at the top.

All Sikorsky S-65 and H-53 variants have large sponsons, of which the size depends on the exact variant. They are a great recognition point.

The outer engines are in nacelles that are attached to the upper side of the fuselage, next to the gear box housing, with space in between.

Another key feature of the S-65/H-53 is the top of the fuselage, that forms a straight line from cockpit to vertical stabiliser.

Different versions

The different versions of the Sikorsky S-65/H-53 can externally be distinguish by

  • the number of engines
  • the number of main rotor blades
  • the size of the sponsons
  • whether the vertical stabiliser and tail rotor are tilted or not
  • whether the vertical stabiliser is braced or not
  • the presence of a refuelling probe extending from the right side of the nose
  • ...

Details will follow later.

Confusion possible with

Sikorsky S-92

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This smaller and newer sibling of the S-65 also has large sponsons, but is essentially different in other areas. The S-92 has a four blade main and tail rotor, a tail rotor on the right and a low mounted horizontal stabiliser also on the right.

Sikorsky S-61R/HH-3

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This derivative of the S-61/Sea King was a smaller predecessor of the S-65/H-53, and seems to have more in common with the latter than the original. The S-61R and CH-3/HH-3 variants also have has a loading ramp at the rear of the fuselage, large sponsons, an all two wheel nose gear and a high mounted braced horizontal stabiliser on the right. It has a five blade main rotor though, a boat shaped bottom of the fuselage and two einges in front of the rotor mast. 

Mil Mi-26

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The Mi-26 is the world's top heavy lifter, even larger than the largest H-53 variants. You will immediately notice that this helicopter has no sponsons, but fixed double wheel landing gears. The tail rotor is on the right side, and the two engines are in front of the main rotor mast.

Leonardo AW101 (EH101)

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The AW101/EH101 significantly smaller than the Sikorsky, has three engines as standard, smaller sponsons and a five blade main rotor, to name a few eye-catching differences.