Sikorsky Stops Taking S-76 Orders; Looks to License Production
Original article by Oliver Johnson and retrieved from Vertical Magazine
Sikorsky will no longer be taking orders for the S-76D following a period of low demand and high production costs that the manufacturer said made the type hard to build and deliver profitably.
Jason Lambert, vice president of commercial and military systems, announced the decision at HAI Heli-Expo 2022, and said Sikorsky was “currently assessing partnerships with international companies” to license production of the medium type.
The move follows the closure of Sikorsky’s commercial production facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, announced last August, and the offload of the S-300 series product line in 2018, and leaves Sikorsky’s commercial business resting on the shoulders of the S-92, the S-70i Firehawk, and the S-70M.
The manufacturer delivered 110 aircraft in 2021, but these included just one S-92 (to a head of state customer), one S-76D (to an Indian customer for use offshore), and the first S-70M (to San Diego Gas & Electric). The latter followed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approving that type for restricted category operations.
And while the S-70i Firehawk program continues to see that type delivered from United Rotorcraft’s initial order for a batch of five aircraft last year, Sikorsky doesn’t expect the fleet of idle offshore S-92s to be fully put back to work until 2025 — meaning sales of new production offshore S-92s could be years away.
Explaining the decision on the S-76D, Lambert said it had been “a phenomenal performer in a niche market,” proving particularly successful with VIP customers — but that its performance in the market “hasn’t been as strong as some of the competitors.”
Offshore, the Leonardo AW139 has come to dominate the medium-lift fleet, replacing many of the older S-76 variants.
In addition to the S-76’s performance in the market, an FAA requirement for crashworthy fuel systems in new-production helicopters, taking effect in April 2020, played a role in sealing the type’s fate.
“The 76’s safety record is incredibly strong,” said Lambert, “but the business case to be able to go put a crashworthy fuel system on that particular aircraft, frankly with the demand we were seeing, [we] didn’t have the business case to be able to justify the investment.”
Lambert said Sikorsky still sees a future for the platform. “We know there’s global customer demand for the platform, and so we’re talking to international partners about licensing opportunities,” he said.
“We would license IP and we would provide technical assistance and support for that international party to do the production and manufacturing.”
However, Lambert insisted Sikorsky would continue to fully support existing S-76 operators.
“The operation we do for the parts that we make, the parts that we procure, the parts we hold in inventory, all the technical support and services we provide . . . Sikorsky is fully committed to that support level.”
Over 870 S-76s have been delivered worldwide since 1979, with the type evolving through a series of upgrades over the decades. The most recent version, the S-76D, was certified in 2012.