Heli-Expo is normally a venue for major announcements, but in an ironic twist, one of Sikorsky Aircraft’s announcements on Monday was that it will be making an announcement about the S-92–eventually.
The manufacturer (Booth No. 1740) is conducting test flights at its West Palm Beach, Fla. facility of an S-92 with a “significant” gross-weight expansion, totaling “several hundred pounds,” according to S-92 senior program manager Thomas Rychlik. The helicopter manufacturer is working with the FAA and EASA to certify the aircraft and will reveal the details of the expansion later this year. Depending on the mission, the current empty weight of the S-92 is between 15,000 and 18,000 pounds. Maximum takeoff weight (internal load) is 26,150 pounds; external load is 28,300 pounds.
The S-92 is one of the few helicopters on the market that surpasses the 12,500-pound threshold established by the Transportation Security Administration’s proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP). Operators and industry groups have expressed frustration with the proposal, and although Sikorsky hasn’t provided much input to the TSA, Rychlik said, “It’s just one more thing the TSA is throwing at [the general aviation community].”
The manufacturer has announced a number of new options to the S-92 in the past year, including enhancements to search-and-rescue aircraft. It also achieved certification in Malaysia and Nigeria. The SAR enhancements include a left-side sliding hatch, night-vision-goggle cockpit capability, the certification of a cargo handling system and the addition of a cargo hook load sensor.
In the coming year, new options will include high durability seats with a heavier fabric and additional padding; a three-degree recline increase; hazmat transport ability (fire suppression system); and a cockpit hush kit, which will reduce noise levels by three decibels. Brazilian certification and a fully coupled IFR precision approach system for offshore rig work are also expected later this year.
Sikorsky also announced at Heli-Expo’09 that it signed an agreement with British Columbia-based VIH Aviation Group that allows the company to repair and overhaul S-92 gearboxes. VIHAG comprises VIH Helicopters, VIH Aerospace, VIH Cougar Helicopters and Cougar Helicopters. It operates six S-92s and has another four on order.
To date, Sikorsky has delivered 96 S-92s. The entire fleet has amassed 135,000 hours, and that number is expected to hit 150,000 by April. Three separate customers have each reached the 33,000-hour benchmark.