2017 Event Review

Fleet Week New York 2017, May 24th - 30th
Location: New York City, New York, USA
Admission: Free
Parking: Free
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: Not an air show

CH-53 Sea Stallion

Fleet Week is a United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard tradition in which active military ships recently deployed in overseas operations dock in major cities for one week. Often, Fleet Week includes displays and flights by various aircraft. I had the opportunity for up close views of the MV–22 Osprey and a CH-53 Sea Stallion. Thus, this report is more about these two aircraft rather than a report on the entire event.

The MV–22 Osprey is the world's first production tilt-rotor aircraft with one three-bladed prop-rotor, turbo-prop engine, and transmission nacelle mounted on each wingtip. It is classified as a powered-lift aircraft capable of both vertical takeoff and landing, as well as short take off and landing. It was designed to be the best combination of a conventional helicopter and a longrange, high-speed turbo-prop airplane. The V-22 Osprey was made in cooperation with Bell Helicopter and Boeing Helicopter. The Osprey first flew in 1989. The U.S. Marine Corps begin training with the Osprey in 2000 and used them in the field in 2007. The U.S. Air Force started using their version of the Osprey in 2009. The Osprey has been used in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Kuwait.

The Osprey has a maximum speed of 305 knots (at 15,000 feet), a maximum altitude limit of 14,000 feet, and an operational range of 1,100 nautical miles. For takeoff and landing, it typically operate as a helicopter with the nacelles vertical and rotors horizontal. Once airborne, the nacelles rotate forward 90° in as little as 12 seconds for horizontal flight, thus converting from a helicopter to the more fuel efficient, higher speed turbo-prop aircraft. The Osprey is powered by two Rolls–Royce AE 1107C engines. To ensure that the Osprey can still fly if one engine fails, the engines are connected by drive shafts to a common central gearbox. However, the Osprey is generally not capable of hovering on only one engine.

The Osprey is equipped with a glass cockpit which incorporates four multi-function displays and a shared central display unit. The auto pilot system can take the aircraft from forward flight into a 50 foot hover with no pilot interaction, other than programming the system. Since the fuselage is not pressurized, personnel must wear oxygen masks above 10,000 feet.

The Osprey can be armed with one M240 machine gun (.308 caliber) or a M2 machine gun (.50 caliber) on the loading ramp. A belly dash-mounted, remotely-operated gun turret system was created for the Osprey but seldom used due to its hefty 800 pound weight. Ospreys are routinely escorted by helicopter gunships and close air support aircraft in order to allow the Osprey to focus on their transport role. The Osprey is manned by a crew of four including a pilot, copilot and two flight engineers. It can transport a maximum of 32 troops and carry a maximum internal cargo load of 20,000 pounds or up to 15,000 pounds on its two external hydraulic lifts. The Osprey is 57' 4" long with a wingspan of 45' 10". It's maximum height, with nacelles vertical, is 22' 1". It's rotors, which can fold in 90 seconds, are 84' 7" wide. The Osprey has a range of 879 nautical miles and a combat radius of 390 nautical miles.

Ospreys are on display at the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center in West Chester, Pennsylvania, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at WrightPatterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and the New River Aviation Memorial at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

The CH-53 Sea Stallion is a heavy–lift transport helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft. It was originally contracted by the United States Marines with required capabilities including a load capacity of 8,000 pounds, operational radius of 100 nautical miles, and a speed of 150 knots. It's desired use was for assault transport of heavy equipment, aircraft recovery, personnel transport, and medical evacuation. The Sea Stallion is managed by a crew of four - pilot, copilot, crew chief, and aerial observer. It can carry a load of 55 troops or 24 rescue baskets with medical attendants; an internal cargo load of 8,000 pounds or an external load up 13,000 pounds on it single-point sling hook.

The Sea Stallion is 88' 6" in length, 28' 4" wide and stands 24' 11" tall. It features a 6-bladed main rotor with a diameter of 72' 2.8" and a four-bladed tail rotor - both of which are capable of folding to save space on Naval vessels. It's maximum takeoff weight is 42,000 pounds, including a useful load of 8,000 pounds. This aircraft was initially powered by twin General Electric T64-6 turbo-shaft engines providing 2,850 shaft horsepower. The engines were upgraded multiple times including a T64–413 increasing its performance to 3,925 shaft horse power and a maximum speed of 170 knots. It has a range of 540 nautical miles and a combat radius of 100 miles. It's service ceiling is 16,750 feet. It is usually equipped with two door-mounted .50 caliber BMG GAU-15/A machine guns. Upgrades to the Sea Stallion included defensive and infrared countermeasures.
The CH-53 Sea Stallion was first used in the Vietnam war, recovering downed aircraft and evacuating personnel. It is also know for its use in the attempted rescue of American hostages in Iran in 1980 and in Grenada to deploy the 8th Marine Regiment during Operation Urgent Fury and then evacuate 233 U.S. students. Sea Stallions were also used by the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, as well as Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. While retired by the U.S. military in 2012, the Sea Stallion remains in military service with Germany, Iran, Israel, and Mexico. It also has been converted for civil use as a fire fighting aircraft in the U.S. A display of a Sea Stallion can be seen at Fort Worth Aviation Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Free ship tours were open to the public throughout Fleet Week. There where several demonstration at various locations by the Navy's helicopters and their Parachute Team: the Leap Frogs. Unfortunately one of them dies this year, as his parachute failed to open.

In addition, a tri-state airport was home to the V-22 Osprey for Fleet Week. This multi-mission, tiltrotar military aircraft allows for both vertical takeoff and landing, and short takeoff and landing capabilities. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.

Report and photography by Brian R. Veprek for with additional images from the US Navy.

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