Lockheed Martin has announced the CH-53K King Stallion program has successfully completed its first extended "cross country" flight from Sikorsky's West Palm Beach, Florida, facility to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. This is the first of several such flights that will occur during 2017 and 2018 as the CH-53K flight test program transitions to the flight test facilities at Patuxent River (PAX).
The CH-53K helicopter flew on June 30 from Sikorsky's Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach to PAX, a distance of approximately 810 miles. Total flight time was six hours, with two en route fuel stops at Naval Air Station Mayport, Florida, and Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. View the video.
"This first movement of CH-53K flight testing to our customer's facility denotes that the aircraft have achieved sufficient maturity to begin transitioning the focus of the test program from envelope expansion to system qualification testing," said Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorsky Vice President, CH-53K Programs. "This has been the plan from the beginning and is another important step toward getting these fantastic aircraft into the hands of the U.S. Marine Corps."
The four CH-53K Engineering Development Model (EDM) aircraft have already completed more than 450 hours of flight testing at Sikorsky's Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, and continue to drive to the edges of the operational envelope with both internal and external loads. The flight test program will continue to operate as it has from the beginning under an Integrated Test Team (ITT) that is comprised of Sikorsky, U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) personnel. Testing will continue in both locations, West Palm Beach and Patuxent River throughout the transition period.
"Bringing the CH-53K flight test program to PAX is an exciting milestone; many of the employees dedicated to its advancement now have the opportunity to work right down the street from it," said Col. Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command's Heavy Lift Helicopters program, PMA-261.
In April, the CH-53K King Stallion Program successfully passed its Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) and achieved a Milestone C decision that approves funding for low rate initial production.