Sikorsky will fly its second S-97 prototype early next year, following the crash of the first Raider helicopter in August.
No crew members were injured in the 2 August crash at Sikorsky’s flight test center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Following an analysis with the National Transportation Safety Board, Sikorsky traced the cause of the crash to a software issue and has corrected the problem in a simulator, Chris Van Buiten, vice-president of Sikorsky Innovations tells FlightGlobal at the annual AUSA conference in Washington, DC this week.
“It’s a very sophisticated fly-by-wire flight control issue. We’ve worked through it, corrected it and we’re moving on,” he says. “We don’t see any hardware changes. We were delighted with how all the systems behaved in the hard landing, including the fuselage, landing gear, seats and fuel systems.”
Sikorsky has already passed along its findings to the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant team, which shares a similar coaxial-rotor/pusher-propeller configuration based on X2 concept helicopter technology. While Sikorsky doesn’t plan on changing Raider’s outer-mould line or materials, the company is performing a detailed analysis on how the aircraft’s composite material behaved in the crash.
At the time of the accident, Sikorsky had both prototypes though the second was not completely built, Van Buiten says. The company has no plans to build a replacement for the first prototype, but that could remain as an option, he says.
The company is now pivoting its efforts toward returning the second aircraft to flying status, including finishing the Raider’s gearbox. Sikorsky is also using software to experiment with weapons integration on S-97. The company would test hellfire missiles, precision guided rockets and guns on Raider, with a possible demonstration slated for as early as 2019.