After numerous delays, the initial flight test of Sikorsky Aircraft’s CH-53K King Stallion has been rescheduled once again. The heavy-lift helicopter has been pushed back in order to - among other things - complete testing fixes to its gearbox. It was once thought the aircraft could make its first flight in June of 2014, but the Joel Embiid of helicopters has suffered a multitude of setbacks. It has experienced problems with the drive shaft, gearbox, and other parts during the ground tests. Flight tests have been scheduled and rescheduled since late 2014 to today.
Currently, there is no set date for its maiden flight. The US Navy, who are using this helicopter, are most concerned about it being safe to use, regardless of how long it takes.
“We are still undergoing ground tests to measure and verify the ability of the drive system, transmissions, engines and flight control system to safely fly the CH-53K helicopter across multiple flight scenarios,” a US Navy Aviation Program Office spokeswoman said. "At this time, we do not have a specific date for a first flight, but do anticipate prior to the end of this calendar year, fall of 2015."
Other reports from The Wall Street Journal say unnamed members of the US Navy indicate the gearbox problem has already been solved, but still requires additional testing.
The United States Marine Corps is prepared to order 200 helicopters at a total cost of $25.5 billion. Once the flight tests have been completed, the US Department of Defense will determine whether or not to begin production in 2016.
The Sikorsky CH-53K will replace the current CH53E in 2019, its scheduled date to enter service. The “heavy-lift” helicopter does just that, as it is capable of transporting armored vehicles, equipment, and personnel further inland from ships.
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