Schweizer Aircraft (Booth No. 2040) yesterday unveiled the Sikorsky Schweizer 434, the company’s first new product since Sikorsky purchased the New York-based OEM in 2004. The Model 434 is a single-turbine helicopter designed primarily for flight training, law enforcement and light utility missions.
Paul Schweizer, vice president of Schweizer Aircraft, said the company retained the basic structure of the Schweizer Model 333 light turbine in the design of the Model 434 but added a new four-blade rotor system (using advanced technologies developed for the Fire Scout vertical takeoff UAV) as well as more power and load capacity and a larger 84-gallon fuel tank.
Improvements include a Rolls-Royce 250-C20W engine with 320-shp maximum takeoff power, a useful load of 1,855 pounds and a gross weight (external load) of 3,200 pounds. The Model 333, by contrast, has 253 shp, a useful load of 1,250 pounds and a gross weight of 2,550 pounds.
Advantages such as improved visibility from all crew positions, “superior” flight handling characteristics and flight stability, as well as ergonomically designed seats, an “unparalleled” energy absorption system, low control forces and low cabin noise levels were inherited from the Model 333, however, Schweizer said. “The Model 333 stands apart from other helicopters in its class in terms of safety and crashworthiness. The Model 434 retains those qualities.” He added that the company will continue to produce the Model 333 alongside the Model 434.
The 434 is also competitively priced, Schweizer said, with a base price of $933,000 and a per-hour flight cost of $240.
When asked if the company will face competition from Robinson with its development of the R66, Schweizer said the two aircraft appeal to different market segments. The Model 434, he said, was designed primarily for utility and lift operations, a segment that Schweizer had not traditionally considered. “This is a major step for us,” he said.
Schweizer added that keeping up with customer demand might be a challenge for the company. “We can’t make aircraft fast enough,” he said. “That’s been a big problem.” He also expressed concern that customers might be deterred by a wait of at least 15 months for the new aircraft. Schweizer said he doesn’t expect FAA certification for commercial use until later this spring.
In spite of Schweizer’s concerns, the Saudi government has to date ordered nine S-434s and the company is taking orders here at Heli-Expo’08.