Sunday, 28 June 2009

Spirit of Verticality

Last week I was pottering into Ardmore to do some Tecnaming when I found the Sikorsky S-76A Spirit ZK-ISJ of the Northland Emergency Services Trust parked outside the Hawker Pacific hangar.

This particular S-76 has a long and distinguished history. Built by United Technologies Corp., Stratford, CT it was initially registered N4237S before transferring to the Royal Jordanian Air Force in 1979 as ABLE-1. UTC got it back in 1987 and restored it as '37S before a sale to PMA Services Pty.Ltd., Revesby, NSW where it became VH-JQI on 8Nov1989. January 1990 saw it back in the USA with Aircraft Holdings Inc., Miami, FL as N4237S once again until a transfer to Mexico as XB-RXV with Aviorrenta SA de CV in July 1991. This didn't last long as August the same year saw it back as '37S with Air Siesta Inc., McAllen, TX.
Around this time Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith was looking for a helicopter to carry out his first-around-the-world in a westerly direction adventure and he picked up this S-76 for the event, registering it as VH-SHW on 16Oct1991 and named it World Explorer. Dick & Pip Smith successfully carried out the global flight. By August 1995 the registration had been changed to VH-CFH under the ownership of Dick Smith Adventure Pty.Ltd. The Order of St John Auckland Regional Trust Board, Whanagrei bought the helicopter into New Zealand in August 1997 and it became ZK-ISJ on 3Sep1997. I recollect there was some dispute about the wisdom of this purchase at that time, as by then this S-76 was a bit non-standard.
Despite it's age it is still a very impressive machine, and I watched in awe as some complicated manouvering took place presumably to try and demonstrate some fault. If you look closely, you can see that the undercarriage locking pins are still in place during this exercise.

After a shut down and some further discussion, ISJ was preflighted, restarted and taxiied away to depart. (It still seems strange to me to see a helicopter taxiing, but that's what she does). What an amazing machine.

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