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WASHINGTON — The CH-53K King Stallion, the Marine Corps' next-generation heavy-lift helicopter, took its first flight Tuesday at Sikorsky's test facility in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The entire flight test lasted about 55 minutes including taxiing on the runway, but the helicopter was in the air for about 30 minutes, Stephen McCulley, Sikorsky's chief test pilot for the CH-53K, told reporters in a teleconference.
"This aircraft flew just like we expected it to fly from the simulation, there were no surprises," McCulley said, adding he was "extremely happy with the aircraft response."
The first flight marks a significant and long-awaited milestone for the approximately $25.5 billion CH-53K program. The aircraft will replace the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and provide 50 percent more power that will allow it to transport more Marines and gear and at higher altitudes. The plan is to eventually buy 200 aircraft and the program is still on track to reach initial operational capability in 2019.