Sikorsky Aircraft yesterday unveiled its X2 technology demonstrator here at Heli-Expo, with hordes of attendees surrounding the black-shrouded helicopter before it was revealed in a cloud of smoke and lights at the company’s booth (No. 1641). What emerged was a sleek-looking, two-pilot ship with a contra-rotating coaxial main rotor and an “aero propeller” in place of the tail rotor.
This year’s Igor Sikorsky Humanitarian Award goes not to an individual, but to an organization that celebrated a special milestone last year. In 1957, the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD) acquired its first helicopter, a Bell 47 G-2.
In the late winter of 1923, these 12 men were most of the workforce of the fledgling Sikorsky Aircraft. When this vintage image was captured, the men were taking a break in their struggle to complete an early flying-boat design inside a decrepit shed on a Long Island, N.Y. chicken farm. Visionary Igor Sikorsky (fifth from right) was in those days a freshly arrived Russian émigré, driven to the U.S.
Like its predecessors, it would be the most widely recognized helicopter in the world– the personal transport for the world’s most powerful leader, a leader who has traveled by helicopter since the mid-1950s. And a leader who had traveled in the same make and almost the same model of American-made helicopter most of those days.
At a time when the progress of big-ticket military helicopter programs is measured in decades, it is worth noting that the first Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche production line opened September 17 at Sikorsky’s Bridgeport, Conn. plant.
The fifth and final prototype Sikorsky S-92 medium-twin transport helo, this one incorporating customer-inspired design changes and a new Rockwell Collins glass cockpit, made its first flight October 5 at Sikorsky Aircraft’s flight-test field in Stratford, Conn.
Sikorsky is readying its X2 compound helicopter demonstrator for first flight in late 2007 or early 2008, the U.S. manufacturer announced here at the Paris Air Show. The hybrid design, which looks like a helicopter with two contrarotating coaxial main rotors and one tail propulsor, already had its fly-by-wire system tested in a small Schweizer 333 helicopter. The actual X2 has undergone engine and drive train ground tests.
Sikorsky last month opened a 25,000-sq-ft Design Engineering Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Workers at the center will conduct dynamic systems design and avionics integration. According to Mark Miller, Sikorsky vice president for engineering, work at this facility will initially support the military CH-53K heavy-lift program. The facility will also support Sikorsky’s future growth needs.
While the S-76 and S-92 will remain Sikorsky’s bread and butter for some time to come, the company is also launching a new age of vertical lift technology, which it is calling the X2.
Sikorsky announced the X2 program at Heli-Expo 2006, claiming its clean-sheet airframe design and counter-rotating blades would allow the helicopter to reach speeds of 250 knots or more while retaining true helicopter heavy-lift capability.
Jeff Pino, Sikorsky Aircraft president, laid out what he called the four pillars for Sikorsky’s future at a Heli-Expo press conference here. These are, he said, growth, excellence in execution, defining X2 technology applications and globalization. He said Sikorsky’s $3.2 billion in total revenue last year set a record for the company. Total revenue in 2005 was $2.8 billion.