As it passed the first anniversary since its acquisition by Lockheed Martin, integration “has gone better than I expected,” said Sikorsky president Dan Schultz, speaking at the company’s Heli-Expo press conference on March 7. He noted that the helicopter manufacturer has been completely severed from former owner UTC, and that has had benefits for the airframer now. “That means a lot to us both in the people and being aligned with a bigger company, but more importantly, it’s the way we go to market,” Schultz said. “Between us, when we go out there internationally to a foreign country, we go as Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky together.”
In that first year under new ownership, the Sikorsky S-92 fleet surpassed 1 million flight hours, and has tallied 1.1 million at present since the type entered service in September, 2004. According to the company, flight hours for the model were up 20 percent year-over-year in 2016.
Its stablemate, the S-76, of which more than 800 have been built over the past four decades, has logged over 7 million hours. The latest version, the S-76D now has more than 50 in operation and has now exceeded 10,000 flight hours. Schultz noted the VH-92, the next generation presidential transport helicopter will fly for the first time this summer.
In his initial press conference as Sikorsky head last year, Schultz explained he was disappointed in the company’s response to customer support. “We kind of lost our secret sauce of how we take care of our aircraft,” he noted. “A lot of our customers were upset with us.” To remedy the situation, the OEM over the past year instituted several programs, notably hiring more than 100 additional staffers in the customer support division, developing a 24/7 AOG response team, and developing four forward parts stocking locations, which according to Sikorsky vice president for commercial systems and services Dana Fiatarone, has reduced the time needed to supply urgently needed spare parts from days to in some cases hours.
Fiatarone noted the company now has the ability to conduct real time HUMS monitoring during flight, which will provide additional situational awareness to the pilot, relaying any abnormalities immediately to a ground operations center, and allowing the operator to be prepared to deal with the situation upon the helicopter’s arrival, rather than first having to download the data upon landing.
In the training segment, Sikorsky announced it is “working to enter into” an agreement with Bristow, which would establish the operator’s Bristow Academy as the manufacturer’s preferred supplier for ab-initio training. The deal would allow customers of the S-92, S-76, S-70i, Blackhawk and Sikorsky light helicopters to complete a Sikorsky-certified training curriculum. “Sikorsky and Bristow have shared a history for more than 40 years, and this is a promising new direction for our relationship,” said Schultz. “We are proud to now provide an initial training capability that enhances safety and proficiency of the pilots operating the Sikorsky fleet around the world.” Following completion of the agreement, training courses are expected to begin later this year at Bristow’s locations in Titusville, Florida, and Carson City, Nevada.