Jeff Pino was named president of Sikorsky Aircraft in March 2006, having previously served as senior vice-president for corporate strategy, marketing and commercial programmes. A retired US Army aviator, he joined Sikorsky in 2002 after 17 years at Bell Helicopter.

Commercial deliveries will rise from 52 to 70 this year. Can they keep growing?

The commercial market is strong and we are bullish on continued, mainly fleet, sales of the S-76 and S-92. Our backlog extends well into 2008, and our highest production set ever of S-76s - almost 50 aircraft in 2007 - is virtually sold out. We are looking at $1 billion in revenues from the commercial market: in 2002 it was $80-90 million.

Pino: bullish on fleet sales

What is driving the commercial market?

The oil industry clearly continues to shine. We have just completed a five-year preview of the oil market, and the replacement market alone will sustain pretty good rates. Oil companies are still expanding, looking further offshore, and the average age of the helicopters is around 20 years old.

Is the S-92 doing as well as Sikorsky hoped?

When we introduced the S-92, everyone said that it was a risky venture then we lost the US Presidential helicopter and CSAR-X. But the four or five markets it is getting into make it a go without the US military.

Oil is the biggest market, but it has spun off a lot of interest in VIP, head-of-state and search-and-rescue and is pushing into paramilitary. You can't get an aircraft until the end of 2008, and we're producing over 20 a year.

Is subsidiary Schweizer Aircraft's light helicopter market growing?

Schweizer almost doubled production in 2006, and will make another pretty big jump in 2007. We're moving a lot of S300 production from New York to China because the piston helicopter market is so cost-sensitive and because, at under 1.5t, it is the only aircraft they can fly without restriction. There is real pilot shortage there.

The X2 Technology high-speed demonstrator has not flown yet. Why?

We had to set priorities, and needed the engineering resources, so the X2 went on the backburner, but it still has heat.

We did engine testing in November, and all the dynamics are now in. We're not building a test bench, we're using the actual aircraft, and that is going on now. It should be in the air within months.

Is there still European interest in the new CH-53K heavylift helicopter?

CH-53K development is on track and we continue a dialogue with the Europeans. They are bidding on components, and writing their requirements.

The industry cannot afford to develop two heavylifters, but we can't go in and be the weapon system developer for the Europeans.

Rumours about Sikorsky buying MD Helicopters are circulating. Any comment?

We have couple of open positions in our product line. If I can find a way to fill them, I will.

Source: Flight International