Sikorsky president Jeff Pino said the company is studying how to position itself in the offshore market with respect to seating capacity, as competitors AgustaWestland, Bell and Eurocopter invest in 16-seat super medium-class rotorcraft in the eight-tonne range.

Sikorsky today has a product gap between its six tonne, 12-passenger S-76D, set for entry into service (EIS) later this year, and the 12 tonne, 19-passenger S-92. Eurcopter will be first into the super medium niche, with the seven tonne EC175 entering service this year, followed by AgustaWestland with the eight tonne AW189 in 2014. Bell has not yet set an EIS date for its newly announced eight tonne 525R, but is targeting 2014 for first flight.

"The segmentation of the market into three passenger increments is one we're studying really hard," Pino said at the Heli-Expo show in Dallas on 13 February. "The S-76 is becoming kind of a small intermediate. We have the best heavy on the market with the S-92, but we're studying the super medium plus [category]. We don't have any announcements yet though." Sikorsky has built more than 180 S-92s and more than 140 are now in service.

Pino said the marketplace is largely a duopoly today with "less than nine passenger" and "more than nine passenger" segments.

"Less than nine, represents the preponderance of deliveries today," said Pino, "but revenue and profit is in the nine-plus passenger market." Two factors will continue to drive sales in the nine-plus passenger segment, he said: fleet age and increasing demand for transport to rigs.

"Thirty percent of the nine-plus passenger fleet is approaching 30 years old," Pino said. "Many offshore contracts require the helicopters to be no more than 10 years old. Driving [the contracts] is the offshore oil segment. With China's growth and demand for oil, we project offshore oil will continue to lead the market and drive the nine-plus passenger segment."

Source: Flight International