With the new S-76D leading the way, Sikorsky is looking forward to a healthy market for its commercial helicopter division.
According to S-76 program manager Leon Silva, the S-76D is built on “a timeless design” represented by more than 700 S-76 models flying in 46 countries. While the S-76 corporate/VIP fleet has logged a total of 642,000 flight hours, that number barely registers in comparison to the 4.07 million flight hours accumulated in support of offshore oil production.
Certified last October, the S-76D is already in full production and the company expects to see more than 30 emerge from its Coatesville, Pa. assembly plant this year, of which 13 finished aircraft will be delivered to their owners by the end of the year. Beginning in 2014, the production rate will increase to 36 a year. Delivery of the first S-76D is scheduled for August, most likely to Bristow Helicopters.
The-76D might be described as a quantum expansion of the S-76C++ with no fewer than eight major improvements, from the health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) to new PW210S engines and active vibration control. With a cruise speed of 154 knots, it is nearly 20 knots faster than the C-model and has a fuel burn rating of 89 gallons per hour versus 94 gallons per hour for the older C model. Making the S-76D quieter outside and in, Sikorsky engineers reduced the external noise level from 92 dBA to 86 dBA and the internal noise from 87 dBA to 83 dBA.
Still in the upgrade planning for the S-76D is a rotor-ice protection system for flight into known-icing conditions, payload expansion, SAR autopilot modes, FAR-compliant emergency egress windows, avionics upgrade and improved crashworthiness for the seats and floor.
Going forward, director of programs Dan Hunter said Sikorsky also expects to make some of the improvements in the S-76D available as retrofit items in S-76 models already in service.
The S-92 is a proven program with 170 aircraft flying in 24 counties with a cumulative total of 510,000 flight hours. The 200th S-92 is scheduled for delivery this year.
The big twin has undergone numerous mission enhancements over the years, including improved gears, gross weight expansion and installation of Tcas II. Coming is “automated rig approach,” which will allow auto approaches to offshore oil rigs. Certification will initially allow auto approach to within one-half mile, but the company is hoping to work with the FAA to get the minimum down to one-eighth of a mile. Certification at one-half mile is expected within the next two months.
As for the future of Schweizer, it remains to be seen, said Sikorsky’s Hunter. Sikorsky acquired Schweizer in 2004 and Hunter noted that at the time, Schweizer was selling helicopters for about half what it cost to build them. The Schweizer S300 light piston helicopter is still being produced, but Sikorsky is not taking any new orders while it considers its options.