Sikorsky Delivers First S-70M Civil Black Hawk

 - December 6, 2021, 11:58 PM

Lockheed Martin unit Sikorsky will begin offering new-production S-70M Black Hawks to the civil and parapublic markets following receipt of an FAA restricted category special airworthiness certificate for the helicopter model, the company announced Tuesday morning. Sikorsky also delivered the first S-70M to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), which plans to have it modified to United Rotorcraft’s Firehawk firefighting configuration.

“With type certification, new-production S-70M Black Hawk helicopters in the latest configuration are available to the U.S. commercial/civil market for the first time,” said Jason Lambert, the v-p of Sikorsky Global Commercial & Military Systems. “Internationally, where the FAA restricted category is not widely accepted, we can now discuss with other civil aviation authorities the potential of validating the aircraft for challenging civil operations in their countries’ airspace.” 

FAA certification, and the establishment of a pilot type rating, are expected to broaden the market for the military-designed helicopter, Sikorsky said. Training will be provided by FlightSafety International at its West Palm Beach, Florida learning center. FlightSafety upgraded one of two S-70 simulators housed there to a level-D S-70M configuration.

“We invested heavily to develop an all-new S-70M pilot training curriculum with advanced courseware. Work is underway with the FAA to gain Part 142 approval for our training course. FlightSafety is excited that pilots requiring S-70M initial type rating or an airline transport pilot upgrade will soon be able to get those ratings at our facility in West Palm Beach,” said FlightSafety center manager David Harper. He told AIN that the duration for the initial type rating would be approximately three weeks while recurrent training would be a week-long course, pending FAA approval.

Harper said the facility currently trains “several hundred” S-70 students across “a pretty broad spectrum” of national and international customers annually and spent two years upgrading an existing S-70 simulator to the S-70M configuration with better graphics and upgraded digital performance.   

Sikorsky received an FAA type certificate for the S-70M in February 2019 and produced the first-of-type aircraft a year later. During 2020 and 2021, Sikorsky proved the aircraft conformed to the type design, based on the U.S. Army UH-60M, and assisted the FAA in establishing the new type rating. Although capable of several special-purpose operations in the restricted category, Sikorsky initially requested approval for three: agricultural operations; external cargo, which allows use of the aircraft’s 9,000-pound external hook; and forest and wildlife conservation, including the application of liquids/retardants on wildfires. 

Lockheed Martin unit PZL Mielec will build S-70M in Poland. Like the S-70i Firehawk, the S- 70M is a third-generation Black Hawk featuring a digital flight deck, GE Aviation T700-GE-701D engines, and wide chord rotor blades. Existing S-70i customers will continue to be able to purchase the S-70i for fleet continuity.

Sikorsky executives declined to disclose the base price of the S-70M. Joe Palumbo, the program director for Sikorsky Global Commercial and Military Systems, said he expected the helicopter’s rugged construction to appeal to customers. He said Sikorsky would continue to partner with United Rotorcraft on the Firehawk but could also provide customers with other modification services or install STC-approved equipment. 

Brian Barrett, Sikorsky S-70 program manager said the S-70M shared 80 percent commonality with the UH-60M, the main difference being the absence of survivability equipment and encrypted radios that are in the military variant. Barrett said Sikorsky planned to deliver 10 S-70Ms in 2022, mainly to international governmental customers. “The bulk of the aircraft will start flowing in 2023,” he said. “It’s a growing market segment and it is very new.”