Friends of The Helicopter Museum

Arrival of Landing Gear from Boeing Vertol XCH-62 (HLH)

Boeing XCH-62 project Boeing XCH-62
In 2008 The Helicopter Museum (UK) took delivery of parts which were recovered from the Boeing XCH-62 Heavy Lift Helicopter (HLH), cancelled as a project in 1975 and eventually scrapped at the Fort Rucker Army Aviation Museum, in Alabama, in October 2005. This sole prototype had deteriorated badly due, largely, to prolonged open air storage, and had become a hazard which could have disintegrated if any attempt to move it had been made.
Helicopter Museum Chairman Elfan Ap Rees and US Army Aviation Museum director Steve Maxham were able to save some key components, including both legs of the 5.5 metre (18 feet) long main landing gear and the nose gear, all complete with wheels. These are now on display at Weston-super-Mare's Helicopter Museum. 
The XCH-62 prototype was a tandem-rotor helicopter powered by three Allison XT701-AD-700 turboshafts, rated at 8000hp each. The diameter of each four-bladed rotor was 28 metres (92 feet). The crew compartment was designed to accommodate a pilot, co-pilot, aft-facing load-controlling crewman and a flight engineer. 

Aft of the crew compartment a short section of the slim fuselage could accommodate 12 troops. The centre fuselage housed two cargo handling hoists. The aft fuselage and pylon area contained the gearboxes and engines. Stub wings contained fuel tanks and also supported the main struts of the fixed tricycle landing gear. The airframe was to be constructed entirely of bonded aluminium honeycomb panels in sizes up to 1.22 metres x 9.76 metres (4ft x 32 ft).

The HLH tricycle landing gear was designed to have dual wheels on each leg, differential braking on the main gear only and power steering on the nose wheels. A main fuselage-to-ground clearance of 4.27 metres (14 feet) was provided, although the crew compartment-to-ground clearance was down to 2.9 metres (9.5 feet). The nose gear was re-designed to provide a breakaway path for the nose wheel strut, away from the crew compartment, to improve crash survivability. Conventional materials were used throughout the landing gear structure, rather than advanced composites, to minimise costs.

The Museum received all three legs, each with its pair of wheels, plus four spare wheels, as shown above left
Shipment of the parts was organised and sponsored jointly by manufacturer Boeing, and Columbia Helicopters, a world leader in civil heavy-lift helicopter operations, with support from The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council's PRISM fund (UK) and Avia Press Associates, publishers of 'Helicopter International' & 'HeliData News'.
'...destroy a piece of history like that.. WHY ?'

'...would have been a money-pit to save.'

'Disgrace !'

'A piece of history lost forever !'

'..the guy that approved this is way 
down the food chain.'

'..ashamed to be an ex-army pilot.'

'Very sad and stupid..'

'They couldn't move it and they couldn't fix it, what else was left ?'

XCH-62 after destruction

"Lost Forever !"

The scrapping of the XCH-62 at Fort Rucker (above right), in 2005, caused widespread outrage among enthusiasts, engineers and historians as a deluge of controversy (excerpts above left) filled the internet forums and chat-rooms. However, the reasons which emerged for the destruction of the machine, showed that the resources which would have had to be devoted to its preservation would be better employed on other exhibits.

The Army Museum director, Steve Maxham, said:-
"It never was an aircraft. It never flew. It was essentially an incomplete concept model, the shell of an idea. It was never structurally completed. It was never mechanically completed. It was never electrically harnessed. There was only one rotorhead produced, the second was not. There were only blades made for one head. There were no drive train components. The upper structures, both fore and aft, were never manufactured. The interior was never completed. In no way, shape or form did it qualify as an aircraft, historic or otherwise."


The History

XCH-62 lifted to Fort Rucker by CH-47C Chinook   The US Department of Defense awarded a contract to Boeing Vertol, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in July 1971, to develop components for Heavy Lift Helicopters. These components included rotor blades, rotor drive systems, flight control systems and cargo handling. 

In January 1973, when the component designs were complete and fabrication under way, a contract was awarded to Boeing Vertol for the construction of one prototype Heavy Lift Helicopter with a 22.5 ton exterior payload, designated XCH-62, serial number 73-22012. 

The prototype programme involved the design and manufacture of landing gear, an aluminium honeycomb airframe and advanced technology sub-systems, including fly-by-wire control, not specified in the initial contract. Mock-ups were constructed of the cockpit, forward crew compartment and aft pylon structures. However, in August 1975, the programme was terminated when Congress declined to provide further funding. Boeing later reported that construction of the prototype had been 90% complete and that approximately three months of final assembly and checkouts remained to be done before installation of the aircraft in a tie-down rig for pre-flight testing.

Another report, published in 1987, stated that the HLH had required a transmission combiner drive train capability that, in respect of torque, would double existing limits of aircraft experience. Gearing designed to the contemporary standards proved inadequate during tests in the mid-1970s. Improved methods of calculating and measuring gear stress levels had been developed. Advanced lubrication and oil cooling with the use of selected harder steels, had eventually resulted in a drive train which would have satisfied the requirements of the HLH.
The incomplete XCH-62 was mothballed but pulled out of storage in 1983, when the Army and NASA proposed collaboration to finish the aircraft for experimental flights but Congress again refused to fund the project. The XCH-62 remained in storage until 1987 when it was decided that it should be placed in the US Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama. It was transported, by barge, from Philadelphia down the eastern seaboard to Mobile, on the Gulf of Mexico, and then airlifted, by a CH-47C Chinook, to the Army's Museum.
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