A Sikorsky panel yesterday painted a positive picture of the company’s Sikorsky Global Helicopters division, basking in the warmth of 136 large and 79 light helicopter sales in 2008-2009, and a year that ended with a backlog valued at $12 billion.
David Oglesbee, v-p of customer relations, took special note of efforts to produce a civil variant of the popular Sikorsky S-434 produced by the Schweizer division at its Horseheads, N.Y. plant. Modifications to create a helicopter more appropriate to civil use include an increase in fuel capacity that will add about 45 nm in range, a stronger landing gear, improved performance, greater horsepower and an increase in gross weight. Certification flight testing is under way.
Six S-434s, modified for civil use, have already been delivered to the Saudi ministry of interior. The ministry’s fleet, said Oglesbee, will eventually total 10 light helicopters, all of which will also serve additional duty in a patrol and training role.
Oglesbee’s enthusiasm noticeably picked up a notch with the announcement that sales of the Sikorsky 300C, also built by Schweizer, in the past six weeks have surpassed sales of that model for the entire past four years.
S-76 senior program manager Timothy Fox focused on the civil market for the new S-76D, now in the flight test phase. Sea-level certification is expected in early 2011 and the first production aircraft is now being assembled at the Aero Vodochody plant in the Czech Republic. Sikorsky already has orders for more than 100. The S-76D will signal introduction of Sikorsky’s “quiet mode,” a reduced noise level thanks to a quieter gearbox and tail rotor, a dual-speed main rotor and all-composite main rotor blades. The launch customer is Falcon Aviation Services in Abu Dhabi.
According to S-92 program manager Spencer Elani, the S-92 fleet now has an accumulated total of more than 200,000 flight hours on 105 aircraft in 21 countries. And while it began life primarily in an offshore support role, other civil variants are becoming popular. The search-and-rescue role, he said, has become a market “sweet spot” for the S-92. And he added that with revival of the competition for additional aircraft for the next presidential helicopter, Sikorsky has put together a team “to make sure this time we’re selected.”