Final assembly of the first production Sikorsky S-76D medium twin has begun in Coatesville, Pa., the helicopter manufacturer announced this week. Czech-based Aero Vodochody delivered the helicopter’s fuselage on November 19–a one-month delay, according to a schedule released in June. The fully assembled fuselage arrived with all electric and cockpit systems having passed acceptance tests, Sikorsky said.
Sikorsky S-76C++, Morgan City, La., Jan. 4, 2009–The helicopter was on a Part 135 VFR flight from PHI’s Lake Palourde Heliport to an offshore oil platform when it crashed into a marsh approximately seven minutes after takeoff, killing the two pilots and six of the seven passengers on board.
In its final report on last year’s fatal crash of a Sikorsky S-76++ in Louisiana, the NTSB called on the FAA to develop stricter helicopter windshield bird strike resistance standards. The twin-engine helicopter was seven minutes into a charter flight to an offshore oil platform on Jan.
Last month Louisiana-based helicopter operator PHI settled lawsuits with four crash victims’ families in the wake of the Jan. 4, 2009, fatal crash near Morgan City, La., that killed both pilots and six of seven oil platform passengers aboard a Sikorsky S-76C. The helicopter collided with a red tail hawk at 850 feet agl and was fitted with a lighter-weight replacement windshield.
The Sikorsky X2 technology demonstrator last month unofficially set a new speed record for rotorcraft, as it reached 250 ktas at the company’s development flight center in West Palm Beach, Fla. The aircraft, which features contra-rotating coaxial main rotors and a pusher propeller, took off at 7 a.m. for its 17th flight, which lasted 1.1 hours. At the controls was chief test pilot Kevin Bredenbeck.
New Jersey Bell 430 and Sikorsky S-76B operator HeliFlite recently announced that investors made an equity infusion into the company in exchange for a 60-percent interest.
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ) plans to sell its two Sikorsky S-76s, on the grounds that it cannot justify their annual operating cost of $3.7 million.
The decision was prompted by expectations of a $39 million budget shortfall this year. “Our revenues have been down, as have thos e of other agencies,” said a Port Authority spokesman.
Petroleum Helicopters is negotiating a joint venture with Brazil’s TAM to support the growing Brazilian offshore market. The joint-venture company reportedly plans to begin operations by year-end with Sikorsky S-76s, while the longer-term plans include the addition of the larger S-92.
Some aircraft fulfill their missions so well that they seem to last almost forever. The Sikorsky S-61/H-3 Sea King helicopter, the prototype of which made its first flight way back in 1959, appears on its way to achieving this “never die” status.
First deliveries of the Sikorsky S-76D medium twin–an upgraded derivative of the S-76C++–are now pegged for 2012 following FAA certification, expected in the fourth quarter of next year. This revised schedule means the program has been delayed by at least six months. The U.S. helicopter manufacturer is giving little explanation, citing only “an unexpected event” that prompted suspension of flight tests in April.