Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Sikorsky believes that at least one fractional-ownership programme using its S-76 helicopter will be launched in early 1998. Interest in helicopter fractional-ownership "has exploded", says director, commercial programmes, Mike Moran, and the company is talking to "several" potential operators.

Richard Santulli, chairman of Executive Jet Aviation (EJA), says that he has been approached for advice by Sikorsky's parent company, United Technologies (UTC). EJA operates the successful NetJets business-jet fractional-ownership programme, but is "...not interested in the S-76," Santulli stresses.

"UTC officials said they would like to speak to me to see if fractional ownership makes any sense. We will meet in January," he adds. "They have asked for my advice on what they should do. People have come to them to try to do a fractional programme," he says.

Moran indicates that Sikorsky has received approaches from entities interested in helicopter fractional-ownership - "a couple in the USA and a couple in Europe". The manufacturer is interested, he says.

Any fractional-ownership programme would have to be regional, rather than national, because of the helicopter's relatively limited range and speed. The north-east USA, close to Sikorsky's factory and a region where some corporate S-76s are already based, is a likely candidate location.

"I am not a formal advisor," cautions Santulli, who has doubts about an S-76 fractional-ownership programme, citing the cost of the helicopter. "Sikorsky makes an expensive helicopter. That's hard for such a regional market," he says.

Source: Flight International