Sikorsky’s S-92 program homes in on certification

 - May 19, 2008, 7:12 AM

It’s been a busy month for Sikorsky’s S-92 development team as the project moves toward approval by year-end. The big twin scored its first public-use sale from the Irish Air Corps, good news that was nevertheless scarred by controversy, specifically Eurocopter’s initiation of legal proceedings against both Sikorsky and the Irish government alleging improper practices on the part of both.

Following the Irish government’s awarding of the three-ship contract, Eurocopter started legal action against Ireland’s defense minister and attorney general over the Eire government’s decision to order the S-92 as its new SAR/medium-lift helicopter.

In a statement, the Franco-German rotorcrafter said it is taking action “because the Eurocopter EC 725 was the preferred choice of the expert group set up by the minister to evaluate the tender. [He] chose to ignore [this] after Eurocopter also claimed several flaws in Sikorsky’s bid, according to the rules laid down for the tender process; and that ‘price-sensitive information’ was also disclosed to third parties.”

Sikorsky has said it was “at no stage privy to any of our competitors’ prices or any details of their tenders,” admitting that a revised bid was delivered to the Irish Department of Defence well before the required expiration date of last September 30.

Meanwhile, The Irish Times quoted the acting officer commanding the Irish Air Corps, Brig. Gen. Miles O’Brien, as saying, “I need this like a hole in the head. It holds up the provision of search-and-rescue services. We want to get on with it. The sooner this is done and dusted the better.”

In other S-92-related news Sikorsky has rolled out the first S-92 variant intended for military service. The H-92 is actually S-92 S/N 3, removed from the flight-test rotation some months ago after logging 221 flight hours to be retrofitted with the newest generation of system improvements and airframe enhancements. Among them:

• A new extended main-rotor shaft and new main-rotor servos. These modifications bring the payload of a well equipped production S/H-92 to more than 11,000 lb.

• A redesigned electrical system intended to maintain rotor ice protection even in the event of a generator failure.   

• A structurally optimized tail pylon that represents the final production configuration of that structure. The new pylon and surfaces are lighter than the developmental tails flown previously.

Sikorsky test pilots Bob Spaulding and Ron Doeppner flew the refitted Aircraft 3 through a series of maneuvers that encompassed the entire flight envelope. “We flew a comprehensive card for a first flight after major changes,” Spaulding said. “The aircraft performed flawlessly and met all of our test objectives. We went out to maximum speed, up to 6,000 feet and through a full range of handling tests, including autorotations. In every case, the results were excellent.”

Other upgrades to Aircraft 3 include the 16-in. cabin extension, lowered tail-rotor pylon and relocated horizontal stabilizer, all of which were previously incorporated into Aircraft 4 and 5 in response to customer requests for additional cabin space and a larger main door.

Aircraft 3 was also retrofitted with the Rockwell Collins integrated avionics suite, improved landing gear, upgraded drivetrain, optimized vibration system and redundant APU fuel boost pump required for FAA certification.

Sikorsky has decided to forego competing in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces ongoing helicopter procurement.

“An analysis of the customer’s requirement made it clear that they wanted to go in a different direction from the S/H-92,” said Jeff Pino, senior v-p of marketing and commercial programs. “We regret this outcome, but the decision is the right one for Sikorsky.”