Speaking yesterday at Heli-Expo 2010, Sikorsky president Jeffrey Pino found looking in the rear-view mirror a fair indicator of what’s to come, and as he put it, “It’s very good.
“We had a great year in 2009,” he said, pointing out $1.1 billion in sales from the Sikorsky Global Helicopters division, another $2 billion from Aerospace Services and a healthy $3.2 billion from Military Systems.
Also under the good news column were 244 aircraft deliveries with a value of $6.3 billion, up 29 percent from 2008. And he added there is a backlog valued at $12.3 billion.
In the wake of the slowly recovering recession, however, he described the strategic environment as “now a different world.” Pino went on to list Sikorsky’s global involvement, as well as its domestic projects:
• In December, Sikorsky Global Helicopters announced its light helicopters division had delivered the first of two S-434s to the Saudi ministry of interior.
• Last November, Sikorsky and Avicopter celebrated completion of the first S-76C++ civil airframe produced in the People’s Republic of China. It was the first built under an agreement between Sikorsky and Changhe Aircraft.
• Also in November, Sikorsky and Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) signed an agreement creating a joint venture to manufacture aerospace components for Sikorsky in India. The deal builds on an earlier contract signed in June for TASL to assemble Sikorsky S-92 helicopter cabins.
• The first S-70I variant of the Blackhawk is now being built at PZL Mielec in Poland.
• The long-awaited S-76D is now in test flight with 50 hours so far accumulated and first deliveries scheduled for 2011.
• The Cyclone variant of the CH148 Canadian maritime helicopter, described as the first fully digital fly-by-wire helicopter, continues with four aircraft now in the test phase and 300 accumulated hours. Delivery of the first example is expected in November 2010.
• The first flight of the modernized S-61N is expected before the end of this year.
• Tests continue on the innovative X2 technology demonstrator. The helicopter has thus far reached speeds slightly over 100 knots. Pino said it will be back in the air in March and is expected to reach 250 knots by June.
• The first MH-60R armed variant of the Seahawk is now being tested on the aircraft carrier USS Stennis.
• Sikorsky has signed with Mubadala Development to provide support for all military aircraft, including those of other manufacturers, in the United Arab Emirates.
• Work continues on the mission-adaptive rotor, which will allow the pilot to select the most appropriate mode, from quiet to high-speed to hover.
Pino said the new competition for the U.S. presidential helicopter contract has started. “We’ll compete, and really hard.” The CH148 Canadian maritime variant would be an ideal candidate, he added.
While he described future demand for executive/VIP and EMS helicopters as flat or down in the near term, Pino expressed the opinion that demand for offshore oil, paramilitary and search-and-rescue variants is “huge.”
Pino concluded with a somewhat less than subtle dig at the tiltrotor design developed jointly by competitors Bell Helicopter and AgustaWestland, while at the same time promoting Sikorsky’s high-speed X2 project. “A helicopter that can fly really fast is better than an airplane that can hover,” he said.