Date of Commission:
During 1977 an acquisition program was launched to provide the Coast Guard with a new Short-Range-Recovery (SRR) helicopter by early 1980. A Request for Technical Proposals (RFTP) was issued in September of 1977 with a Coast Guard decision on the new machine planned for August of 1978.
The Coast Guard Plant Office for the SRR contract was established soon after the contract was awarded in 1979. CDR Dave Young was the original Commanding Officer. Aerospatiale’s original facilities were located at the Vought Helicopter Corporation which operated for a short period as a licensee of Aerospatiale. In late 1980 Aerospatiale built its own plant facilities at Grand Prairie, Texas. The unit functioned as the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) for the program and was provided dedicated space. The assigned personnel were involved from the beginning, attending not only the formal program reviews but visiting Aerospatiale Helicopter Division in France, Lycoming, Rockwell Collins, and the FAA lead region for helicopter certification. The formal reviews consisted of a post award meeting, a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), Critical Design Review (CDR) and monthly program/progress reviews.
In an effort to gain early Coast Guard approval of the proposed configuration, Aerospatiale fabricated a full-sized mockup for use at the CDR. The cockpit was fairly well designed and was modified by inputs received during reviews at Rockwell Collins and the PDR. In addition, various equipment such as the litter, rescue basket, trail line, float lights, and pumps were utilized to allow crew members to work through the necessary cabin operation scenarios. The interface between the hoist operator and his various controls received considerable input that was incorporated into the final configuration. The use of the mockup enabled the contractor and major vendors to rapidly move out with prototype builds. Three helicopters were used in flight tests. Two were flown to obtain certification in France and then through reciprocity the FAA certification. The third was used in the United States to prove the avionics installation. Eventually all three were flown out of Grand Prairie.
As the program progressed, personnel became involved in component development, testing, and conformity to specification as the aircraft went down the production line. Coast Guard aviators eventually took over the test program. The Coast Guard enlisted personnel participated in all phases as well. They went through maintenance procedures and manuals and performed ground tests on all aircraft and support equipment.
The first of ninety-six HH-65s was delivered to the Coast Guard in November of 1985.