Sikorsky says it will make a decision on a production go-ahead for the S-92 medium helicopter "within a year" as a utility version of the machine goes on static display here this week.

The S-92 was primarily designed to be a 19-seat civil helicopter, with a military transport variant to follow. But Sikorsky has advanced work on the utility type to meet "significant interest which made a strong business case for doing that," says Fred Geier, programme manager, S-92 business development.

The prototype at Paris, which was due to be the fifth and final test vehicle to fly, will now be the fourth to joint the flight test programme at West Palm Beach.

The S-92 is being offered to meet a joint Nordic requirement for between 40 and 50 helicopters to perform search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare and transport missions.

Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden could be taking delivery of the aircraft from 2003.

Geier says he expects a shortlist of four competitors to be announced in the autumn, with a final decision to be made early next year. A total of 10 manufacturers have been approached under the initial request for information.


Portugal is also close to kick-starting another competition for business with a request for proposals covering eight to 12 helicopters which it plans to use for its air force and fisheries protection needs. Meanwhile, Canada is looking to replace its ageing fleet of Sikorsky Sea King helicopters and will start the search for a successor later this year.

Geier says the first prototype, the ground test vehicle, has now started a 200-hour endurance run, aimed at achieving FAA certification for the gearbox.

This is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

He adds that studies continue into a naval version of the S-92, incorporating a folding main rotor and tail for shipborne operations.

The second test aircraft has now completed 40 flights, totalling almost 50 hours, achieving airspeeds of 165kts in forward flight and 180kts in a slight dive.

The S-92 is a collaborative effort, with partners Embraer supplying the sponsons and landing gear, Jingdezhen Helicopters of China the vertical tail, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries the main cabin fuselage, Gamesa of Spain the composite structures and Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development the cockpit.

Source: Flight Daily News