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n the early 1950s, the Sikorsky S- 55 made its mark when the 600 horsepower (hp) piston-powered helicopter realized its first use in the world of construction. With a typical load of 1,500 lbs, the aircraft would place power poles or lift objects that a ground-based crane was unable to accomplish. By 1956 when the much more powerful 1,525 hp piston engine S- 58 entered service, with its nearly 5,000 lbs of lift, helicopter operators were able to provide the construction industry with a much more capable machine. The S-58 was used for every conceiv- able job: placing air conditioners and equipment on top of structures, power line pole placement, moving workers to remote construction sites, lifting loads at job sites,


and moving oil and gas equipment in re- mote areas. The S-58 was used for many other types of construction jobs over the last five-and-a-half decades of service. In the early 1970s, Sikorsky completed a conversion project that turned the piston S-58 series into the more powerful and re- liable twin-engine turbine S-58T. The hel- icopter drivetrain stayed the same, but Sikorsky incorporated the well-known tur- bine PT6 with 1,800 hp “twin pack” en- gines. The addition of twin-engine turbine power added flexibility and reliability to the S-58, allowing it to function in the off- shore transport market and lift loads to higher altitudes during construction and firefighting work. Now in 2013, there are still working S-58Ts, including some in foreign military services and a handful in commercial service in the United States. One longtime S-58 operator is California- based Heli-Flite, Inc., doing business as

24 November 2013

ARIS Helicopters with offices in both northern (San Jose) and southern (River- side) California.

ARIS and Heli-Flite

started out as separate companies but merged in 2004, and now operate two S- 58Ts, two MD-500Ds, one 206B Je- tRanger, and a single AS-350B Astar. The company does lift work, firefighting, gov- ernment contract work and charter jobs. The main lift aircrafts are the S-58Ts for loads between 2,000 and 5,000 lbs., while the lighter helicopters cover loads between 500 to 1,500 lbs.

ARIS owner and pilot Scott Donley

tells Rotorcraft Pro, “We started as Heli- Flite in 1993 with a piston-powered S- 58B. (A second piston S-58 was added in 1996.) For certification purposes we con- verted the S-58B to a S-58F, lowering its

internal gross weight to 12,500 lbs from 13,000 lbs. For external loads we could still go to 13,000 lbs. Although originally rated at 1,525 hp with 115-octane fuel, when we had to go to the lower 100-oc- tane we lost some power and went to about 1,425 hp. We stripped the aircraft of all additional weight we could find, in- cluding removing cowlings and replacing the wheels and tires. “We found the aircraft could easily lift 3,000 lbs, and up to 4,000 lbs on a cool day at sea level. We also found the aircraft very sensitive to temperature, and when it heated up outside our lift capability would drop quickly. Because of this we normally tried to do our jobs early in the morning during the coolest time of day. We flew the pistons until 2009; we miss ‘em. They proved reliable and able to get the job done.”

Heli-Flite moved to the S-58T in 2004

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