Sikorsky announced yesterday that it delivered the first two examples of the S-76D, an upgraded version of the medium twin helicopter, to the Bristow Group late last month. The helicopters are equipped for offshore oil and gas operations, a configuration certified by the FAA in October 2012, and are to fly in the Gulf of Mexico.
Sikorsky Aircraft is lobbying to replace AgustaWestland (AW) as the supplier of VIP helicopters to the Indian Air Force. The company is already building fuselages for the S-92 in India. Meanwhile, the Indian Minister of Defense confirmed that the ministry had sent a legal notice to AgustaWestland regarding the contract for 12 AW101s, now in jeopardy after the company allegedly violated the terms of a pre-integrity pact. The company has 21 days to respond.
Companies proposing either tiltrotor or compound helicopter designs have won contracts from the U.S. Army for its joint multi-role technology demonstration (JMR TD) Phase 1 program to develop a next-generation vertical-lift aircraft.
Sikorsky Aircraft and China’s Changhe Aircraft Industries have signed an agreement for Changhe to produce cabins for the S-76D. Changhe, which had previously provided cabins for the predecessor S-76C++, will now serve as a second source for S-76D cabins, as Czech-based Aero Vodochody also supplies cabins. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2016.
Sikorsky Aircraft is developing a set of hardware and software capabilities to support autonomous flight of unmanned or optionally piloted vertical-lift aircraft. Executives said the goal is to deliver an order of magnitude improvement in the safety and reliability of unmanned aircraft, which experience losses at a rate of once every 1,000 flight hours.
Contract negotiations between the U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and AVX Helicopter, Bell Helicopter and the Sikorsky/Boeing team–the potential Phase I vendors for the joint multi-role technology demonstrator (JMR-TD)–are nearing completion. Announcement of the awards for a new U.S. Army medium helicopter are planned for September, according to an Army spokesman.
While Sikorsky Aircraft’s parent company, United Technologies (UTC), reported improvement in its second-quarter earnings compared with last year, the helicopter manufacturer itself experienced a decrease of 3 percent in sales, a 24-percent decrease in operating profit and a drop in return on sales of 2.8 basis points. In a webcast today, Greg Hays, CFO of UTC, attributed the decreases partly to weak military aftermarket sales, which he said were down 25 percent, and the fact that sequestration is making it harder to process orders for spares.
Macquarie Group has launched a new helicopter leasing company, Macquarie Rotorcraft Leasing, headquartered in San Francisco. The new company is headed by CEO Jeffrey Pino, formerly president of Sikorsky Aircraft. James Clarke, most recently CFO at Air Lease, is COO of Macquarie Rotorcraft Leasing. The leadership team also includes chief marketing officer Steve Estill and chief technical officer Greg A’slinger, former owner of Uniflight. The new company specializes in supplying helicopters for oil and gas, medical transport, search-and-rescue and executive transport.
The first four flying versions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ next generation CH-53K helicopter were advancing through assembly at Sikorsky Aircraft’s West Palm Beach, Florida, facility earlier this year. “We’re well beyond the paper side of the aircraft. We’re building this thing,” Marine Col. Robert Pridgen, H-53 program manager, told reporters at the Navy League conference in April.
Although business has been tough for UK helicopter charter companies in recent times, Capital Air Services is in the process of increasing its managed fleet with the addition of two Sikorsky S-76++ helicopters. This will bring the S-76 fleet to three, to operate alongside a Eurocopter EC155 and a pair of EC135s.