Big Brother, Little Brother

Erickson’s S-64 Air Crane® Helicopter has two models, the E and F. Learn the differences between the two and their unique capabilities.

A brief history of the S-64 Air Crane® E & F Models

Erickson has a 50-year history of manufacturing and maintaining helicopters. In the early 1970s, Jack Erickson started the business with the idea of using helicopters for timber harvesting. This innovation reduced wear and tear on forest land because fewer trucks would have to creep up muddy and rough terrain to load massive logs.

He started with former military helicopters from the Army, the CH-54 A helicopters, to hook and haul timber from high elevations. There was also an Army CH-54 B model helicopter. Both the CH-54 A and B models inspired Sikorsky to create the E & F models of the Skycrane.

Erickson’s VP of Aerosystems, Jeff Mecklenberg, said that, roughly 30 years later, in 1992, Erickson then obtained the type certificate from Sikorsky to manage and manufacture the S-64 Skycrane. Much later, Erickson renamed the aircraft the S-64 Air Crane® Helicopter.

There are similarities and differences between the two versions of the S-64 Air Crane® Helicopters. Thinking about them like a little brother – the E model, and a big brother – the F model, is one way to understand the differences between these large, industrial, heavy-lift helicopters.

See the specifications and hear from Erickson’s experts who work with this aircraft daily (below).

Comparison between S-64 E & F Air Crane® Helicopters
Technical and Performance Information  

S-64 E ModelS-64 F Model
Max Power
9,000 SHP 
Max Power
9,600 SHP 
Single Engine Limit
4,500 SHP / 30 min. (gearbox limit is 4,050)
Single Engine Limit
4,800 SHP / 30 min.
Max Gross Weight
42,000 lbs. (19,050 kg)  
Max Gross Weight
47,000 lbs. (21,320 kg)  
Max Hook Weight
20,000 pounds (9,072 kg)
Max Hook Weight
25,000 pounds (11,340 kg)
Max Cruise Speed
115 kts (212 km/hr.)  
Max Cruise Speed
104 kts (192 km/hr.)  

For more information on avionics and mission-specific equipment,
download the full Technical and Performance spec sheet below.

Expert insights about the E & F Models

A Pilot’s Perspective on Flying the E & F Models

Justin Rath, chief pilot, has been flying the S-64 Air Crane® helicopter for eight years. Rath pilots primarily aerial firefighting missions. He enjoys both the E and F models, “They are both great aircraft to fly.” He added that with the new composite main rotor blades (CMRB), “It makes the aircraft fly smoother and gives us better performance numbers. We can also lift more than with the metal blades.”

Rath said that the F model can “Carry more weight, which is good for construction and firefighting – it carries more payload.” He added, “When I fly the F model, there is more capability depending upon what I am doing. But the CMRBs make both the E and F models a pleasure to fly.”

He said that certain customers want the E model over the F model and vice versa.

“Sometimes, the weight plays into our contract bids,” he said.

An Innovator’s Perspective on the E & F Models

Jeff Baxter, senior director of research and development and product development, has his eyes on a significant innovation – the future of the S-64 Air Crane® Helicopter. His goal is lofty because he is bringing 50-year-old aircraft into the future with major innovations.

He cites the importance of the CMRBs, but notes that within about four years, Erickson Incorporated will launch all-new, modernized E & F models.

Baxter thinks the current aircraft are amazing, “The size, precision placement with the aft seat is cool technology; the versatility with the fuselage to add items underneath; they are incredibly large helicopters; the magnitude of the lift is helpful.”

The future for the S-64 Air Crane® Helicopter is outstanding.

The innovations include:

  • Composite blades
  • Upgraded engines
  • Sikorsky MATRIX™ Technology
  • Improved safety standards
  • Gel blending
  • Water cannons
  • Improved gallons per hour
  • Surveillance data
  • Infrared software
  • Infrared screens
  • Engine monitoring technology
A Fleet Manager’s Perspective on the E & F Models

Jeff Mecklenberg, vice president of Aerosystems said, “The S-64 Air Crane® Helicopter is the Swiss Army Knife of helicopters; anything you can attach to the aircraft, you have a huge space to work with, only limited by your imagination. It’s just fricken cool! “

A Perspective from the Director of Aerial Programs

Allen Wannamaker, director of aerial programs, said the critical functions of the aircraft, such as a fire tank and pond snorkel, can pick up water from a shallow body of water. He also shared a construction setup including a powerline with precision settings – this is operated from the aft seat.

“This aircraft can lift air conditioners, antennas, and powerlines,” he added.

Wanamaker said that the aircraft offers general delivery mode, “moving something from Point A to Point B.”

For logging applications, he said, “The way it is set up we have the shock and pendant with a grappling hook – it is an environmentally friendly, and quicker way to get the wood out of the forest without creating more roads.” He said that due to the weight of the harvested logs, they are carried one-at-a-time or grouped, depending on the weight of the log. Transported logs are moved to a landing area where loaders and skidders stack them up. Trucks then transport to logs the mill.

The capabilities of these helicopters are broad. Wanamaker said that about anything can be rigged underneath.

“…from crashed cars to shipping containers off ships, and even putting research boats into Crater Lake, these are all possible.” He added that within a Malaysian rescue effort, they flew a rhino or elephant to a new location.

Wanamaker said that Erickson would develop updated versions with the new MATRIX™ program.

The future of the S-64 E & F model aircraft

The S-64 Air Crane® Helicopter, both E & F models, are world-renowned for their impressive heavy-lift and precision capabilities.

Over the last 50 years, Erickson Inc. has flown around the world, fighting fires, moving large equipment, and saving lives. The company has a strong future with the innovative functions of the E & F models.

Stay tuned for future announcements regarding the E & F models and contact us if you have questions about the existing models.