The Sikorsky S-76D medium-twin helicopter achieved FAA type certification on October 12. Deliveries are now planned to begin later this quarter, as the backlog is “approaching half a billion dollars.” The manufacturer is now working on EASA certification.
According to Ed Beyer, v-p of Sikorsky Global Helicopters, “The S-76D will offer a higher cruise speed than its predecessors, coupled with more efficient fuel burn, making the S-76 more productive than ever.” Deliveries of the initial version of the S-76 date back to 1979. Sikorsky launched the S-76D at Heli-Expo 2005, announcing “an additional set of product improvements that will lead to the introduction of the S-76D model helicopter in 2008.”
Early customers include “various corporate flight departments in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada, Asia and Europe,” a company spokesman told AIN. The first fleet customer is the Japan Coast Guard, where four S-76Ds will replace several helicopters damaged in the tsunami last year. In addition, the U.S. Export-Import Bank has authorized “more than $50 million” to guarantee a loan extended by Apple Bank to Mexican offshore operator Aeroservicios Especializados (Asesa) for a fleet of Sikorsky S-76Ds.
The manufacturer reports firm orders for its latest civil product as “in the high-20s,” and it expects to turn other agreements into contracts soon. The annual production rate is planned to reach “at least 36 aircraft” over the coming years.
Since its 2005 launch, the program has been consistently delayed. The last setback was a crack found on an engine mount, “an example of a typical discovery expected during aircraft envelope expansion,” according to a company spokesman.
The new version features major changes such as Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210S turboshafts, a digital four-axis autopilot and a Thales TopDeck avionics suite. The dual-speed main rotor allows pilots to select a quiet mode. Sikorsky’s engineers are now working on an optional rotor de-icing system for all-weather capability, as well as incremental certifications such as additional autopilot and navigation functions and single-pilot IFR.