Flight testing of the Sikorsky S-92A Helibus medium helicopter began on 23 December. With its maiden flight successfully concluded, attention has now switched to a final decision by the company on a production go-ahead later this year.

The first General Electric CT7-6D-powered prototype S-92 made its inaugural flight from Sikorsky's development flight centre at West Palm Beach, Florida. The 50min maiden flight consisted of eight take-offs and landings, as well as including hover, forward and sideways manoeuvres.

A second prototype machine, powered by improved -8 turboshafts, was recently delivered to West Palm Beach and will join the flight test programme soon. Three more S-92 test helicopters are planned, including one configured for the utility mission.

The US helicopter manufacturer expects to undertake 2,000h of development and certification flying. Airworthiness certification is targeted for mid-2001.

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

Source: Flight International