Based on the commercially successful Bell Jet Ranger 206 civil rotorcraft, the Bell TH-57 Sea Ranger is the main platform in which all U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and NATO helicopter pilots are tested and proved. Though mainly used for pilot training, the TH-57 Sea Ranger is also utilized for photo taking, pursuit, and utility operations.
The TH-57 Sea Ranger first saw military service in 1968 when the U.S. Navy procured 40 units to use as its primary trainer aircraft. The U.S. Navy was the first branch to utilize turbine helicopters in the primary training capacity.
Each year, hundreds of aviation students go through Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field in Milton, Florida for advanced instrument flight rules (IFR) training.NAS Whiting Field is home to the U.S. Navy’s oldest helicopter training squadron, Helicopter Training Squadron Eight (HT-8). Student aviators, including Undergraduate Military Flight Officers (UMFOs), complete at least 106 flight hours in the TH-57 Sea Ranger in order to earn their wings of gold.
Student Naval Aviators (SNAs) spend approximately six months at NAS Whiting Field. During this training period, the prospective military pilots complete 107 hours of ground school, 47 hours in flight simulators, 16 instrument flights to earn an instrument rating, and,finally, 13 contact flights to perfect hovering skills, landing patterns, autorotations, and emergency procedures with the TH-57 Sea Ranger.
As of 2011, the U.S. Navy upholds a fleet of 126 Sea Rangers. The terrain-based, skid-configured TH-57 Sea Ranger helicopter are all maintained by Madison, Mississippi-based Raytheon Aerospace Services.
The general characteristics of the TH-57 Sea Ranger are as follows:
|Prime Contractor||Bell Helicopter Textron|
|Crew||Instructor and four students|
|Power Plant||One 420-horsepower Rolls-Royce (Allison) 250-C20J turboshaft engine|
|Length||38 feet 9 inches|
|Height||9 feet 6 inches|
|Rotor Diameter||33 feet 4 inches|
|Empty Weight||1,425 pounds|
|Gross Weight||3,200 pounds|
|Max Speed||131 miles per hour|