United Technologies subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft has started safety of flight tests on the first prototype CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter, the ground test vehicle (GTV).
During the bare head light off phase of testing, which began under auxiliary power with safety-of-flight test pilots at the aircraft's controls, the helicopter's main engines powered on without rotor blades.
Sikorsky CH-53K programme vice president Mike Torok said: "Having independently tested the aircraft's many components and subsystems, including electrical and avionics, hydraulics and flight controls, landing gear, propulsion, transmissions and rotors, now we have begun testing these critical functions as an entire system powered by the GTV aircraft's three GE 7,500 shaft horsepower class engines."
Currently anchored to the ground at remote outdoor test site, the GTV was delivered into the test programme at the company's West Palm Beach, Florida-based Development Flight Center in late-2012.
Equipped with sensors to measure and validate the ability to operate safely under its own power, the heavy lift helicopter is scheduled to undergo ground testing for approximately two years, with both Sikorsky and US Marine Corps test pilots at the controls.
Following completion of bare head testing, Sikorsky will install the seven main rotor blades and four tail rotor blades onto the GTV for second test phase.
During the second test phase, the company will carry out extensive aircraft system checks followed by pre-flight acceptance test need to clear the first flight aircraft for flight testing.
With four additional test aircraft being prepared for flight test scheduled to begin in late 2014, Sikorsky will continue to GTV evaluation for long-term endurance of the engines and dynamic components, survivability, and maintenance practices during the three-year flight test programme.
Image: A Sikorsky-built ground test vehicle prototype at its facility. Photo: courtesy of Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.