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Science: Copter Hop

2 minute read

The helicopter came of age in 1950 in the Korean war. On awkward, whirring wings, from Korean battlefields to Brazilian jungles, it has fluttered to the rescue of grounded airmen. It has ferried passengers and cargo to remote landings that were unreachable by conventional, straight-wing planes. Last week the helicopter added new range to its versatility. In a 3,400-mile hop, skip & jump, a pair of Sikorsky H19 helicopters landed in Prestwick, Scotland, after a leisurely 16-day flight from Westover Field, Mass. For the first time, rotary-wing aircraft had spanned the Atlantic.

On all five legs of the flight, the Air Force rescue planes were guarded by other search-and-rescue planes that also flew weather reconnaissance. Extra gas tanks were crammed in the space for ten passengers. The lumbering H-19s found the going roughest between Labrador and Greenland. After three misses, the helicopters dropped to within 35 feet of the icy waves and poked through 100-yard visibility to a tiny island in a Greenland fiord.

The helicopters went on to Wiesbaden, Germany, for their normal work: search and rescue. The carefully planned trip may soon be followed by regular long-range ferry hops. The cost of dismantling each helicopter and shipping it to Germany would have been more than $6,000.

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