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Sikorsky S-52 First Helicopter Loop - 1949

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Published on Nov 28, 2008

H E "Tommy" Thompson loops the Sikorsky S-52 helicopter in 1949. First recorded helicopter loop from 8mm movie.

Thompson also set an international speed record of 129.616 mph in this craft.

Describing looping the S-52 from my Dad's memoir - "At about two hundred feet I put the helicopter in a dive and picked up airspeed to approximately 120 miles per hour; by this time at the bottom of the loop we were only twenty or thirty feet above the ground. Then the ordeal of raising the pitch stick, applying more power, gradually easing back on the azimuth stick more and more until as you look over backward and see the horizon and ground as the helicopter is now upside down in reference to the ground. Just before going over I backed off on power and pitch and by all means didn't allow the rotor RPM to exceed it's red line. Gingerly continuing to hold back on the azimuth stick allowed us to begin our descent down to the landmark from which we started. As we were coming down, we felt a thump or thud which shook the helicopter. This thump or thud was rewarding in that it signified our loop was next to perfect in that we reentered our prop or blade wash."

Tommy was flying that day with Adolph Plenefisch, the S-52 crew chief. Prior to the flight. he had asked Adolph to adjust the aircraft for maximum fore and aft control that was allowable without mast bumping. Adolph was a little suspicious and wanted to accompany him if he was going to try anything aggressive. Thompson acutally lost his FAA license for these loops as he violated flying regulations in regard to aerobatics under specified heights over land and in a congested area. Sikorsky got his license back the next day. Subsequently, Sikorsky had Thompson make other demo flights which were also filmed and photographed from the air and ground.

BT - I have reviewed some of the materials from my Dad's collection and confirmed that the loop occurred in May 1949. Correction posted 7/9/09

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