Flagship Civil Helo To Get Updates
Sikorsky's Jeff Pino,
Senior VP of Sales, faced a crowd of curious newsmen. "I know we're
pretty brave calling a meeting at three o'clock," (Pacific time, on
Super Bowl Sunday), he said, "so I'll be brief..." but he thought
it was important to communicate the future of the S-76 line.
"Really, we've set out about a ten year path here," he said,
referring to the S-76C++ and S-76D that were introduced a few hours
earlier in a presentation remarkably thin on detail. Now it was
time to share the details.
"We've been asked for many,many years, when were we going to do
something to the S-76?" Perhaps drastic change isn't necessary:
during the show, Sikorsky was delivering aircraft number 615 off
the production line. But the major reason the S-76 went without
major modifications is that Sikorsky was sinking enormous resources
into the S-92 project. With the S-92 completed and being delivered,
there was time to relook the S-76 and find out what the customers
"The customers really spoke to us, hard, about what they
wanted," Pino said. "The key word was 'more': more power,more
range, more comfort... quieter... I can't say 'more quieter,' but a
more quiet interior, more safety, more reliability, more
efficiency. And then they had the little nuance that said, the only
thing they don't want 'more' is the price."
Then he said they were going to get pretty much what they
wanted, and explained exactly how the new S-76C++ and future S-76D
will deliver it. The S-76C++, as the name of the machine replacing
the S-76C+ hints, tells a tale of incremental improvements --
nothing drastic. The S-76D gets into drastic territory, with an
all-new engine from a new (to the S-76 program) vendor, new rotors
based on advanced technology developed for the abortive military
Comanche program, an all-new glass cockpit and even a restyled
Up until the end of this year Sikorsky will deliver the current
S-76C+. At the end of the year, the new S-76C++ will be available,
and it will remain the standard S-76 until the radical D-model
replaces it in mid-2008. But all the remaining S-76C+ airframes are
sold already, so if you place an order today it will be for an
S-76C++ and will be delivered next year.
What's In an S-76C++?
The price hasn't changed, but the helicopter has, in subtle
ways. A more powerful Turbomeca Arriel engine provides 5-6% more
power and increases the S-76's high and hot performance. Sikorsky
designed a barrier inlet filter for the new Arriel 2S2 engine that
filters out damaging particulate matter, but that doesn't attenuate
normal inlet flow. A proprietary "superfinishing" process
will reduce gearbox noise, reduce friction, and increase
durability. "It changes the shape of the gears; it provides them
with a mirror glass finish...it makes the transmission very, very
noise-free." Sikorsky has been doing this microfinish treatment to
selected VIP machines, but starting with the C++, it's going to be
standard on S-76s. This improvement alone lowers cabin sound
pressure levels by 4 dB, to as low as 83dB, about the level of an
airline cabin in cruise, by Sikorsky's measurements. But that's not
all that's been done to quiet the copter.
A Honeywell VMX HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring System) will
fight vibration by providing rotor track and balance and drive
system monitoring. It will be an option, but the default will be to
include the system. In addition, the interior will be redesigned
using Keystone Helicopters' Silencer technology to reduce noise
Sikorsky customers must like the C++, because at the show, and
in the week prior, Sikorsky took 12 orders for the improved
And What Makes The S-76D Different?
"The D has got some interesting technologies that will make it a
better and much different helicopter," Pino said.
Both the main rotor and tail rotor will be completely
redesigned. They're going to have all-composite rotor blades. "This
was at the direct insistence of some of our offshore customers,"
Pino explained. The chord, airfoil, and tip shape are all going to
be completely redone. "We're going to draw a lot of experience from
Comanche." Aerodynamic lessons learned from the Comanche project
have now migrated through the Sikorsky product line, to the UH-60M
upgrade program, to the S-92, and now to the S-76. The rotor blade
upgrade -- alone -- will increase payload in high/hot conditions by
The composite rotor blades will be completely de-iced, and the
S-76D will ultimately be certificated for flight into known icing.
It inherits this system from its big sister, the S-92, for which
known icing certification is nearly complete. The icing
certification will follow the basic aircraft certification by about
a year,to allow for sufficient flight testing in icing
Sikorsky plans at this time to make de-icing available as a
retrofit to operators of S-76B,-C, -C+, and C++ models once it is
in regular production in the D model.
The tail rotor is going to be redesigned for noise reduction,
yielding a 1.5 to 2 dB reduction, which sounds insignificant, but
if achieved will make the S-76 conform to SFAR 52, the Grand Canyon
Pino used the tail rotor to hint about his big bombshell: "The
tail rotor is going to need a little bit less horsepower -- from
the very powerful engine we're going to put in it...as I'll tell
you in a minute."
Leaving the rotors and powerplants for a moment, Pino was not
able to say what vendor will be providing the state-of-the-art
glass cockpit for the S-76D. That's because that vendor is one of
several right now competing for that business. "We'll have to pick
that quickly because they'll have to work with -- and this is our
most exciting announcement -- we're working with Pratt and Whitney
[Canada] on a brand new engine, that they've dubbed the Pratt and
Whitney 210." Jeff Pino said little more about the PW210, not
wanting to steal PWC's thunder.
"I will say...when they brought us this idea,and told us they
would line it up with.. the D model, it was virtually a no-brainer,
to make the very tough decision to change engines. But THIS engine
will provide another THOUSAND pounds of lift, over and above the
400 that we're going to get from the new rotor system."
This capability may, or may not, lead to a gross weight increase
-- it will certainly allow operators to operate the S-76D at the
current gross weight (11,700 lb). in higher and hotter conditions
than would be possible with earlier S-76s. Later on, in response to
a question, Pino said that Sikorsky knew they wanted a new engine,
and PWC "...brought us a deal: to put a brand new... engine on our
airplane. Size it, scope it, configure it, for OUR aircraft, and
nobody else's. That was really just an impossible one to turn
Jeff Pino (shown above) closed by pointing out that over the
last three years, Sikorsky's commercial helicopter business has
grown sixfold in dollar terms. In the last year they took 53 orders
for the S-92; the first S-92 revenue flights (by PHI in the Gulf of
Mexico) have already taken place. Sikorsky has sold out 2005 and
the first half of 2006 production of the S-92 already.