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I’VE BEEN RIGHT UP next to a Sikorsky Chicksaw helicopter, admittedly a stripped example in residence at Musée d’Art Populaire Chez Manual. This fabulously eclectic collection is just north of the French city of Poitiers, four hours southeast of Paris, about two hours south of Le Mans.
My visit to Musée Chez Manuel was years ago, a day of early retirement after having attended a Le Mans 24-hour race.
However, imagine my surprise yesterday leafing through the book 1950s British Classic Cutaways and finding this wonderfully detailed Westland Whirlwind helicopter.
Sikorsky Chicksaw? Or Westland Whirlwind? This resemblance called for some helicopter research, new to me because of previous rotary-wing bias taught to me by fixed-wing friends. “Helicopters don’t really fly,” it’s said, “they’re just so ugly that the Earth repels them.”
The H-19 Chicksaw, in-house designation S-55, was designed by Sikorsky without government sponsorship. It served as a testbed for several novel features that optimized load-carrying ability and straightforward maintenance.
The Chicksaw’s first flight was on November 10, 1949, less than a year after the program start. In April 1950, the U.S. Air Force was its first customer, quickly followed by the U.S. Navy in August 1950, the U.S. Marines in April 1951, and a licensing deal with Britain’s Westland Aircraft in May 1951.
So, in fact, the Westland Whirlwind is, indeed, a licensed variant of the Sikorsky Chicksaw. A total 1728 examples were manufactured between 1950 and 1969: 1281 by Sikorsky, another 447 by Westland, SNCASE in France and Mitsubishi in Japan.
A Nose-mounted Radial. I confess I had no idea where helicopters put their engines, but the Chicksaw’s nose-mounted air-cooled nine-cylinder radial was innovative. Its forward location put the main cabin, and its potential cargo load, close to the craft’s center of gravity and to its main rotors’ rotational axis. This translated into optimizing balance with differing loads.
The nose-mounted engine was readily accessed at ground level through dual clamshell doors. An entire engine could be swapped out in only two hours. The radial was oriented backwards relative to a typical prop-plane’s application, thus offering convenient access to engine accessories.
The Art of the Cutaway. I have profound respect for artists of cutaways. Even before I researched the Chicksaw/Whirlwind, cutaway drawings of the design fascinated me because of this helicopter’s engine location, its angled driveshaft housing splitting the cockpit, and its main gearbox directly below the rotor assembly.
I can lose myself for hours with a cutaway, a proper glass enlarging its intricacies. How about you? ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018