Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lockheed’s AH-56 Cheyenne

It was a honor to test pilot this advanced rotary-wing aircraft
by Dave S.

I was privileged to be one of the Lockheed-California Company’s AH-56 Cheyenne compound helicopter test pilots, and I enjoyed every minute of that experience. In fact, I had a very unique opportunity to be in engineering during the preliminary design and detail design, then test flying, and then teaching others to fly the Cheyenne. Many people won’t even remember that Lockheed was in the rotary-wing business, and that we built the most advanced rotary-wing aircraft to this day. The Cheyenne was designed and developed in the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s and included a very effective and sophisticated day/night weapons suite. It was way ahead of its time!

Lockheed also built several smaller helicopters to prove and demonstrate the rigid rotor concept. Other companies had tried to build a rigid rotor and failed, but Lockheed engineering didn’t know that you could not successfully build a rigid rotor, so they did it. The Lockheed rigid rotor helicopters were extremely maneuverable. Many known aviation personalities were flown in these aircraft, including Willie Messerschmitt, Jackie Cochran, a number of astronauts, as well as a few politicians and movie stars. Another little known fact was that Lloyd Stearman (yes, the Lloyd Stearman) worked in the Lockheed rotary-wing preliminary design department during the Cheyenne design/development period and enjoyed it. There are so many stories from this period that were so interesting, and I hope others contribute other memories to record this piece of Lockheed Martin’s history.

The Cheyenne in Flight