Sikorsky plans a 2019 launch for a number of undisclosed upgrade packages for its S-92 heavy helicopter, which could include uprated engines.

The US manufacturer, now part of Lockheed Martin, is battling a downturn in the market for civil rotorcraft that has seen sales and output slide over the past two years.

Upgrades would help to lift orders and provide better value for existing operators, it believes.

Nathalie Previte, vice-president of strategy and business development, says any enhancements would offer "better performance, range and payload", as well as reduced operating costs.

The 11t-class rotorcraft is powered by twin GE Aviation CT7 engines, and Previte says one option under the package of upgrades would be to offer a version of the CT7-8A7 that powers the CH-148 Cyclone – the military derivative of the S-92.

"That's something we are looking at," she says.

However, she says an uprated powerplant will not be the only option on offer. "A lot of times technology insertion comes with new hardware – but what we are going to develop is a modular approach depending on what customers want. We will not introduce something if it does not provide additional capability to our operators – we are in discussions about their needs."

The upgrades will also be available as retrofits to the existing fleet, says Previte.

Sikorsky has a strong presence in the offshore oil and gas segment, with the S-92 the mainstay of crew-change operations in the North Sea.

Although offshore operations have been hard hit by falls in the price of crude, Previte says it is seeing a recovery in the segment – flight hours rose by 3% last year, and Sikorksy expects to see a 6-8% rise in 2018.

However, Previte acknowledges that this has partly been driven by the difficulties experienced by the Airbus Helicopters H225, the S-92's direct rival in the sector.

Around 10 offshore-configured S-92s are currently parked, she says, although she notes that the manufacturer is seeing increased interest in modifications to convert transport helicopters for search and rescue operations.

No orders for new oil and gas-roled S-92s have been received for "quite some time", admits Previte, with production of both that platform and the smaller S-76D "at single-digit levels".

Recent sales have mostly focused on SAR-configured examples of the S-92, she says, pointing to the presence of a HM Coastguard-liveried helicopter outside Lockheed's chalet.

Sikorsky has also announced the sale of a VIP-roled S-76D to the government of Maharashtra in India.

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