United Technologies (UTC) is still pondering the future of helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky as the unit endured a torrid start to the year, with commercial revenues falling by more than a quarter.

Speaking to analysts on the back of first-quarter earnings released on 21 April, UTC chief executive Greg Hayes said the company was “still evaluating the strategic options” for Sikorsky, including a potential spin-out of the business.

Hayes declines to elaborate further but says the process should be complete by “roughly mid-year”.

Sikorsky handed over just five civil helicopters – S-92s or S-76Ds – in the period ended 31 March, down from 12 a year earlier, as low oil prices hit demand from offshore rotorcraft operators.

In addition it delivered 32 military helicopters, compared with 36 in the same period in 2014.

Development of new military programmes continues, however, with both the VXX presidential helicopter for the US Marine Corps and the US Air Force’s HH-60W combat search and rescue model beginning to ramp up.

First flight of the new high-speed S-97 Raider is anticipated in the second quarter, says UTC, and although it indicates that ground tests have begun on the initial flight-test article for the heavy-lift CH-53K, it provides no detail on when the maiden sortie might take place.

UTC anticipates that commercial rotorcraft activity in the second quarter will be stronger, but “we will likely see continued pressure in the back half of the year”, says director of investor relations Paul Lundstrom.

Commercial revenue at Sikorsky was down by 26%, with overall sales falling by 7% to $1.26 billion and operating profit dropping 11% to $92 million.

In fact, UTC took a double-hit from the depressed market for new helicopters, with its Pratt & Whitney Canada engines business recording a 10% year-on-year fall in shipments, largely attributed to the state of the rotorcraft sector.

Source: FlightGlobal.com