The first customer delivery of the Sikorsky S-76D was imminent as this was being written last month, with the first example to be handed over to an offshore operator in the Gulf of Mexico. EASA certification is expected toward the end of the year.
The company has been expanding the helicopter’s envelope since it received so-called “baseline FAA certification” in October last year, a signoff intended “to get the aircraft to the market,” according to a company executive. But one year later no aircraft had been delivered. For the last 12 months the helicopter’s limited approval has restricted operations to two-pilot VFR flights at limited altitude.
In the ensuing months, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210S-powered helicopter has been tested at altitude and has shown a significant improvement in its Cat B envelope compared with preceding S-76s, according to the manufacturer. In the Cat B envelope, an engine failure may result in an unscheduled landing. The trials took place at 10,000-feet-msl Lake County Airport in Colorado.
In next year’s first quarter, tests will be performed for Performance Class 1 takeoffs (the European equivalent of the U.S. Category A), an important performance feature for executive applications. The first executive S-76D is scheduled for delivery in January to a customer in Europe. Sikorsky holds firm orders for approximately 80 of its newest civil product, according to the executive.
Meanwhile, Sikorsky and FlightSafety International have jointly announced the entry into service of the first S-76D full-flight simulator, located at FlightSafety’s facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. FAA- and EASA-qualified, the simulator is equipped with FlightSafety’s newly enhanced Vital visual system, which provides continuous satellite-derived high-resolution imagery. It also features electric motion and control loading.