Sikorsky has delivered the first CH-53K ground test vehicle (GTV) to the company's flight test team. The airframer is developing the massive aircraft for the US Marine Corps' heavy lift helicopter requirements as part of a $3.5 billion contract.
The GTV will be used to wring out the CH-53K's systems in hundreds of hours of powered ground checks before four flying prototypes are flown starting in 2014. The checks will cover all of the machine's dynamic components including the rotors, transmission and engines.
"Extensive ground-based flight checks with Sikorsky and NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] test pilots at the cockpit controls will confirm whether these dynamic systems, as well as hydraulic, electrical, and avionics systems, can meet the requirements established by the Marines for their next-generation heavy lift helicopter," says Michael Torok, Sikorsky's CH-53K programme vice president.
According to Sikorsky, flight test engineers will now perform preliminary acceptance tests which will include calibrating the GTV's fuel system and attaching sensors. In the coming months, the company expects the GTV will be fixed to an outdoor test-rig before it is activated.
By the middle of next year, the aircraft will "light off" when its three General Electric GE38-1B 7,500shp turboshaft engines are powered up for the first time. Initially, Sikorsky says, tests will be performed without rotor blades, but eventually they will be attached.
Meanwhile, two additional static ground test articles are undergoing airframe structural testing at the company's main manufacturing plant in Stratford, Connecticut.