AvStop Magazine Online


The CH-3E is the USAF version of the Sikorsky S-61 amphibious transport heicopter developed for the U.S. Navy. The USAF initially operated six Navy HSS-2 (SH-3A) versions of the S-61 in 1962, eventually designating them CH-3A/Bs. They were so successful the USAF ordered 75, modified as CH-3Cs, featuring a new rear fuselage design with a ramp for vehicles and other cargo.

The first CH-3C was flown on June 17, 1963. When 41 CH-3Cs were updated with more powerful engines in 1966, they were redesignated as CH-3Es. Forty-five more were newly manufactured. Later, 50 CH-3Es were modified for combat rescue missions with armor, defensive armament, self-sealing fuel tanks, a rescue hoist, and in-flight refueling capability. They were redesignated HH-3Es and used extensively in Vietnam under the nickname "Jolly Green Giant." The CH-3E on display--known as Black Maria--is a veteran of the Southeast Asia war. In 1965 it was attached to the 20th Helicopter Squadron. Painted flat black (hence the nickname), it was used for highly classified special missions.


Main rotor diameter: 62 ft.

Fuselage Length: 73 ft. 0 in.

Height: 18 ft. 1 in.

Weight: 22,050 lbs. loaded

Armament: Provisions for two .50-cal. machine guns

Engines: Two General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines of 1,500 hp. each

Crew: Three

Cost: $796,000

Serial Number: 63-9676


Maximum speed: 177 mph.

Cruising speed: 154 mph.

Range: 779 miles with external fuel tanks

Service Ceiling: 21,000 ft.