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The Sikorksy S-64 was designed as an enlarged version of the prototype flying crane helicopter, the Sikorsky S-60. The S-64 had a six-blade main rotor and was powered by two 4,050 shaft horsepower (3,020 kW) Pratt & Whitney JFTD12A turboshaft engines. The prototype S-64 first flew on May 9, 1962 and was followed by two further examples for evaluation by the German armed forces. The Germans did not place an order, but the United States Army placed an initial order for six S-64A helicopters (with the designation YCH-54A Tarhe). Seven S-64E variants were built by Sikorsky for the civil market.
Since that time, Erickson Air-Crane has become the manufacturer and world’s largest operator of S-64 Aircranes and has made over 1,350 changes to the airframe, instrumentation, and payload capabilities of the helicopter. The Aircrane can be fitted with a 2,650-gallon (~10,000 litre) fixed retardant tank to assist in the control of bush fires, and it has proved itself admirably in this role.
So far,[when?] S-64 Aircranes have been sold to the Italian and Korean Forest Services for fire suppression and emergency response duties. Those in the Erickson Air-Crane fleet are leased worldwide to organizations, companies, and Federal Government agencies for either short-term or longer term use in fire suppression, civil protection, heavy lift construction, and timber harvesting.
Erickson is manufacturing new S-64s, as well as remanufacturing existing CH-54s. Erickson gives each of its S-64s an individual name, the best-known being “Elvis”, used in fighting fires in Australia. Other operators, such as Siller Brothers, have followed with their Sikorsky S-64E, Andy’s Pride. The Erickson S-64E nicknamed “Olga” was used to lift the top section of the CN Tower into place in Toronto, Canada.
Originally a Sikorsky Aircraft product, the type certificate and manufacturing rights were purchased from them by Erickson Air-Crane in 1992.