Design-wise, the HH-65 shares many of the same characteristics of her French-sister, the Eurocopter Dauphin. Her design in characterized by her low-set forward cockpit showcasing a smallish pointed nose assembly and a shrouded Fenestron tail section. The undercarriage is fully retractable and is made up of two single-wheeled main landing gears and a double-wheeled nose gear. Engines are mounted hit and above the crew cabin about midway on the design. The body integrates smoothly into a finely contoured empennage that fits a single vertical tail fin (above the Fenestron shroud) and a horizontal tailpane situated.
Power is derived from twin Turbomeca Arriel 2C2-CG turboshaft engines delivering up to 934 shaft horsepower and driving a corrosion-resistant composite four-bladed main rotor. Maximum speed tops 184 miles per hour with a range of 409 miles and a service ceiling of 15,000 feet. The Dolphin sports an empty weight of approximately 6,333lbs and a maximum take-off weight of up to 9,480lbs. Like the main rotor blades, the fuselage and rotor head are both constructed of corrosion-resistant materials for operations over the salty ocean. In fact, this type of composite construction makes up some 75% of the helicopter design.
Crew accommodations onboard a typical HH-65 model include the pilot, co-pilot, flight mechanic/flight engineer and rescue swimmer. Visibility is rated an excellent thanks to heavy use of glazing in the forward, side and top portions of the cockpit. The flight mechanic is afforded a chair which can slide on rails from one cabin side to the other as needed. The original Dolphin paint design featured a red, white and black scheme but this has since been changed to an overall red (still maintaining the black nose and exhaust sections) for easy visual marking from icebreaker vessels. The change in color has also cut off three days to the overhaul time needed for the aircraft.
The Dolphin maintains a distinct operating capability that allows its autopilot system to bring the aircraft to a hover or fly a designated flight pattern without the need for pilot intervention. This obviously frees up the pilots to other mission matters, particularly when having to visibly scan the surface of the ocean for persons or vessels. Deployment for Dolphins usually originates at land bases but Coast Guard Cutters are designed to take on the type.
The HH-65 has since been spawned into four major versions. The initial production model entered service in 1985 as the HH-65A, fitting twin LTS101-750B-2 series turboshaft engines of 735 shaft horsepower each. This was followed in 2001 by the upgraded HH-65B model with its revised avionics suite, twin global positioning integrated systems and two cockpit-mounted multi-function flat displays. If there was a drawback to the Dolphin system up to now, it lay in her Lycoming-brand engines, forcing the USCG to look through other powerplant options available.
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