HELIPRO, a Washington-based helicopter repair-and-support company, has flown a shortened version of the Sikorsky S-61, dubbed the "Shortsky".

The modification involves the removal of a 1.3m section from the fuselage forward of the engine intakes and aft of the cockpit. The reduced structural weight increases the helicopter's maximum external lifting capacity by more than 450kg, to 4,990kg, and improves single-engine handling.

Initial orders for "around 20" have already been taken, or are being negotiated, says Helipro president, Hugh Whitfield. The first five aircraft on firm order are destined for the heli-logging market in Canada and Alaska.

Two of the three aircraft already completed are earmarked for Canadian Helicopters and one is for VIH Logging, a sister company of Vancouver Island Helicopters (VIH). VIH has also ordered a second conversion.

The Hayes Group, a new British Columbia-based logging contractor, has also ordered an S-61N conversion for delivery in mid-1996. "We expect that a minimum of ten Shortskys will be in service, or under conversion, by early 1997," says Whitfield.

The work is expected to receive US and Canadian supplemental certification in March, and "...we will hopefully obtain certification for North Sea operations within around six months", Whitfield adds.

He continues: "We intend to pursue Category A certification of the Shortsky with the British Civil Aviation Authority and European Joint Aviation Authorities in phase two of our development programme. We believe a market exists, to convert the S-61N into a Cat A-capable offshore and search-and-rescue helicopter to fill the gap, until the next generation of offshore helicopters, such as the S-92, are available."

Helipro was talking to British International Helicopters, Bristow Helicopters and Malaysian Helicopters at Heli-Expo '96. Some 134 S-61s are still in operation worldwide, of which around half are in the North Sea area.

The S-61N is not capable of, or approved for, Cat A-operations, which stipulate that the helicopter must be able to maintain elevated deck height with one engine inoperative.

Helipro launched the programme in early 1995, when it obtained a damaged ex-Bristow S-61N from South Africa.

Source: Flight International