Author: Ian French

Photography: Ian French & Jon Astley

Siller Helicopters was formed in 1975 initially to service the needs to the logging industry.  Over 40 years later, the company’s services include firefighting, hydro-seeding, transmission line construction, ski lift construction, power grid expansion, HVAC placement, logging and heavy-lift operations across the world.

Activity is lower in winter and we were able to visit the main helicopter base near Yuba City in northern California.  Here, the fleet was undergoing winter maintenance ready for the busy summer season.  The operational fleet consists of two variants of two helicopter types as follows:

 

  • The Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane: the CH-54A military variant and the S-64E civil variant
  • The Sikorsky S-61 Sea King: the S-61A and S-61V models

Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane

This truly is a massive helicopter, designed and built in the 1960s and nothing since has come close to replacing it.  Approximately 100 were built.  It has a lifting capacity of 20,000 pounds which is the same as its empty weight!  The E model is preferred for operations as the crane operator sits in a bubble at the rear of the cockpit section and has a clear viewpoint for winching operations.  The CH-54A has a flat section at the rear of the cockpit and this provides a more restricted view for the crane operator.

The operational Skycranes are kept in fantastic condition reflecting their high value and worth to the business.  Each helicopter has its own dedicated mechanics trailer, similar to those of professional racing  car teams, and each trailer is even annotated with the aircraft’s registration number.

The active fleet consists of:

  • N4035S S-64E
  • N4037S S-64E
  • N9125M CH-54A  ex 68-18455
  • N7095B CH-54A  ex 66-18430 (on maintenance in the hangar)

Stored examples are:

  • N2268L CH-54A  ex 66-18411
  • N429C CH-54A  ex 66-18429
  • N62352 CH-54A ex 68-18453
  • 66-18423 CH-54A
  • 68-18441  CH-54A

Sikorsky S-61 Sea King

The S-61 was the backbone of US Navy helicopter operations for decades until replaced by the S-70 Seahawk.  It was based on a 1950s design with production starting in the 1960s.  Over 1,000 helicopters were produced.  Many S-61s have since found their way onto the civilian market.

The S-61s operated by Siller Helicopters have a maximum gross weight of 22,000 pounds of which 10,000 pounds would be cargo.

The active fleets consists of:

  • N3173U SH-3A 149916 (Operating in Hawaii)
  • N45917 S-61V-1
  • N51953 HH-3A ex 149903

Stored examples are:

  • N4196Z CH-3E  ex 65-12792
  • N4197R JCH-3E   ex 65-12796
  • N421S SH-3A  ex 148038
  • N4230X JHH-3E  ex 65-12787
  • N5193J SH-3H   ex 148036
  • N614DR JHH-3E  ex 66-13285
  • N861DR JHH-3E  WWex 69-5812
  • 65-5699 JCH-3E
  • 65-12793 JCH-3E
  • 65-12795 JCH-3E
  • 65-12798 CH-3E
  • 66-13291 JHH-3E
  • 66-13296 JHH-3E
  • 69-5801 JHH-3E

Aviation Press Limited would like to thank Jim Anderson, Director of Sales & Marketing and Siller Helicopters Inc, for their assistance with this article.

Aviation Press Limited owns the copyrights to this article & associated photographs.

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