Paul Derby

Sikorsky is using Asian Aerospace '98 as a launchpad to win customers for its new S-92 Helibus medium-lift helicopter, due to enter service in 2001.

The S-92 is scheduled to make its first flight before the end of the year and Sikorsky announced in the run-up to show week that discussions were starting with prospective customers.

The North Sea offshore oil sector is showing strong interest in the craft, executives confirm, although they stress that versatility will be the key to the S-92's success.

"We're looking at everything from search and rescue capability to passenger, cargo and aero-medical missions," says David Powell, vice-president of International Programs for Asia Pacific.

Sikorsky has been under pressure from potential customers to accelerate the S-92 programme which was launched in 1995 as a risk sharing partnership with Aero Industrial Development (Taiwan), Embraer (Brazil), Gamesa (Spain), Jingdezhen Helicopter Group (China) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Japan).

Sikorsky will be offering both a 19-seat commercial version and a 22-seat military helicopter.

"Larger cabin size is one of the single most important advances," says Powell. "We feel there is a solid market for the S-92 and the timing of the Singapore airshow is good for us. It's an ideal opportunity to speak to our customers."

Sikorsky forecasts demand for replacing its S-61 medium-lift transports with S-92s at 340 units over the next 20 years, and has set a "conservative" target of 700 S-92 sales in the same timeframe. Announcing the latest phase in the development programme, Sikorsky president and CEO Eugene Buckley said the S-92 was on track: "We are ready to enter commercial discussions leading to memoranda of understanding. Our talks will cover definition of aircraft configuration, options, aircraft quantities, schedules and programme support aspects."

The civil version of the craft will command a price tag of about $13-14 million. Performance for both versions is identical - a 155kt (260km/h) cruise and 910km (490nm) range at a gross weight of 11,430kg.

Three of the five S-92 prototypes are in final assembly at Stratford, Connecticut.

Source: Flight Daily News