Sikorsky has delivered the first fully configured examples of its new S-76D medium-class helicopter, a little over a year after gaining US Federal Aviation Administration certification for the baseline rotorcraft.
Texas-headquartered Bristow Group received two aircraft in late 2013, with the first arriving on 19 December. They will be operated in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore transportation work in support of the oil and gas industry.
Carey Bond, president of Sikorsky Global Helicopters hails the handovers as a “very important” milestone for the programme.
Production is sold-out through 2014, says Bond, with backlog for the type totaling $700 million. "We have more firm positions [on the D-model] than we had any other time and I can't remember a S-76 that was sold out this far into the future."
Sikorsky has sold the S-76D into the main market segments – oil and gas, emergency medical services, search and rescue and VIP transport – and deliveries of all four variants will follow this year, says Bond.
"It shows the utilitarian nature of the aircraft. We are going to knock all four segments off out of the box,” he says.
Enhancements over its predecessor, the S-76C++, include new Thales avionics and new Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210S engines. However, development problems with the powerplants were largely responsible for the four-year delay in certification.
Aerodynamic improvements derived from work on the heavy-lift CH-53K for the US Marine Corps were also incorporated on the 12-passenger S-76D, says Bond. “This airplane just wants to go fast."
Overall, speed has increased by 12-15kt (22-28km/h) over the C++, with fuel burn cut by 5%.
Bristow, which has six S-76Ds on order, is likely to have a busy first half of 2014 as it also looks to introduce the first AgustaWestland AW189s into its fleet.