Industry Perspective: Sikorsky
Shane Eddy is the new kid on the block at Sikorsky, but he’s no neophyte to helicopters, having spent more than 25 years in the industry, with the last 14 years at Bell Helicopter, where he most recently served as senior vice president of customer support and services. In his new position as vice president of Sikorsky Global Helicopters, Eddy “is responsible for strategic leadership and general management of the growing billion-dollar business,” according to the official company release. Eddy himself describes his job responsibilities as taking care of customers first, including keeping product improvements coming; bringing new products to market as his second priority; and being responsible to the company and its shareholders as his third. A graduate of Canadore College in Ontario, Eddy earned his MBA from Columbia University in Quebec.
What have you been doing since becoming a Sikorsky vice president on January 8?
I’ve been digging into the Sikorsky commercial product line, specifically the S-92, S-76C++ and S-76D. I have not yet had a chance to look into the former Schweizer helicopters [the S-300C, S-300CBi, S-333 and S-434], which, as you know, are part of the Sikorsky product line.
What’s new with the S-92?
We’re doing a lot of product enhancements, 60 since the aircraft entered service. The latest is a two-piece [main gearbox] filter bowl assembly, that replaces the existing one-piece filter bowl. [Sikorsky released service bulletin No. 92-63-022A about the two-piece filter bowl on Dec. 18, 2009, and the FAA has proposed an FAA Airworthiness Directive on the same topic. The AD would require operators also to replace the existing titanium mounting studs with steel studs and inspect and replace if necessary the main gearbox lube system filters, the housing, the housing threads and the lock-ring counterbore. –Ed.]
Was this a result of the Cougar Helicopters S-92 accident in March 2009?
The objective is to make a fielded product more reliable, to increase reliability with an accelerated enhancement. Another enhancement we expect to certify this year is automatic approach to offshore oil rigs and platforms. I’d like to point out that more than 100 S-92s are in service in 21 countries and that the total fleet has passed 200,000 flight hours. This is strong evidence of the capability of the aircraft.
While the VH-71 presidential helicopter, which is based on the AgustaWestland EH101, was terminated last year, the program did receive $130 million in the 2010 defense budget for technology recapture and for initial studies by the U.S. Navy on requirements for the next “Marine One,” designated the VHXX. The S-92 lost that first competition, which Sikorsky disputed. What can you say about Sikorsky’s participation in this next competition?
This program, as well as any involving the H-92, comes under U.S. government programs at Sikorsky, but because it is based on a commercial design, I am involved. I can’t say what the Navy is doing right now nor what we are doing, but it’s clear there would be significant potential in the new VHXX program.
What’s happening with the S-76D?
Basic certification is planned for the first quarter of 2011. One aircraft is active in flight testing and we’ll have three in the flight-test program. After the basic certification, the fourth aircraft, which will be a VVIP configuration with the new cocoon interior, will be certified.
What were Sikorsky’s results for 2009 and what is its outlook for 2010?
United Technologies, Sikorsky’s parent company, will not release specifics about the outlook for 2010 until March. However, I can say we delivered 244 helicopters, excluding the former Schweizer models, last year and that fourth quarter 2009 deliveries were a record for Sikorsky: 84 aircraft total, of which 57 were military and 27 were commercial.
In general, how do you view the helicopter market for this year?
We appear to have reached the bottom of the downturn and we’re seeing some increased interest on the commercial side. We plan to deliver a good number of products this year. The oil market is strong. There’s an increasing need to replace older helicopters, such as the S-61, with the S-92.
Military sales will be strong, especially in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, where there’s interest in the H-92, Black Hawk and SeaHawk. Law enforcement and firefighting missions, including search-and-rescue and relief missions, are seeing gradual improvements. Terrorism, piracy and narcotics trafficking are contributing to an increasing demand for border patrol and surveillance aircraft. The EMS and VIP markets are lagging.
What’s the status of the X2, Sikorsky’s technology demonstrator?
The X2 is currently out of service for transmission upgrades. It should start to fly again in March and we expect it to hit 250 knots this year, which would break the current airspeed record for a helicopter.