Four Sikorsky S-51 helicopters, which had been sold to small commercial operators after WWII, were returned to Sikorsky. Sikorsky had originally designed the S-51 with rescue utilization in mind. They were offered to the Coast Guard. CAPT Richard Burke, who had been responsible for sending the helicopters up to Newfoundland for the Sabena rescue, had been assigned as the Chief of the Coast Guard Aviation Division at Headquarters. Money was found for the purchase and the Coast Guard acquired four S-51 helicopters which were designated as HO3S-1G. An additional five HO3S-1Gs were purchased in 1949/1950.
Each of the HO3S-1G was fitted with a rescue hoist and the Coast Guard’s Rotary Wing Development Unit based out of Elizabeth City, N.C., experimented with a number of other innovations that enhanced the helicopters’ versatility, including a rescue basket and emergency flotation bags that were fitted around the landing gear. The size of the rescue basket, however, and the limited room within the HO3S’s cabin precluded its use until the introduction of a larger helicopter.
The HO3S saved thousands of lives over the next several years.