Sikorsky sold its light helicopter line—essentially, the former Schweizer 300 series—to Schweizer RSG in late January. The new company, affiliated with Fort Worth, Texas-based Rotorcraft Services Group, acquired the Hughes/Schweizer 269/300 type certificates and parts inventories, and plans to restart production of the Schweizer 300. Sikorsky bought Schweizer Aircraft Corp. in 2004.
"That's been a question the last couple of years," said Dana Fiatarone, vice president of commercial systems and services. In the middle of last year, Sikorsky was in the right position to consider that product line. "It wasn’t just anybody we sold the aircraft to," he noted, recognizing that a worldwide fleet of about 2,900 Schweizer helicopters needed support.
Fiatarone said he's received a lot of questions about Sikorsky's next-gen commercial aircraft. "I can’t share anything with you, unfortunately," he said, beyond that it might incorporate X2 technology. Sikorsky's X2 is an experimental, high-speed compound helicopter with coaxial rotors and a pusher prop. "Certainly it’s a generational leap in the ability to fly fast—and much quieter, too."
Sikorsky continues to focus on customer support and aircraft-on-ground parts turnaround. Big data—which helps identify what fails, and where—enables the company to inventory the correct parts at each of its four forward stocking locations.
"We launched real-time HUMS [Health and Usage Monitoring System] last year with our customer PHI," Fiatarone said. "That system was well received. It's now operational in the Gulf of Mexico." The system provides a leap in safety and pilot situational awareness, he added. As the pilot troubleshoots in the cockpit, data generated is automatically pushed to the ground so other resources can contribute to the solution.
On the military side, the company's CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter—designed to meet U.S. Marine Corps requirements—is now in full production. And its capabilities continue to be defined; Sikorsky President Dan Schultz said a CH-53K broke the ground recently at 91,000 pounds.
The company is marketing the Firehawk aerial firefighting version. "The Firehawks are a pretty cool thing," said Schultz. "We drop with a head pressure that can put the fire out." The Los Angeles County Fire Department operates three S-70i Firehawks, with two more on the way. Sikorsky helped to clean up the Firehawk displayed at Heli-Expo—the fleet saw a lot of use during Southern California's busy wildfire season last year—and crews found ashes in places they never expected. At the show, San Diego Fire-Rescue Air Operations signed an agreement to purchase its first Firehawk.
The company is working on an optionally piloted Black Hawk. "We can unman airplanes—that’s old technology," Schultz said. "We believe the future is optionally piloted." By removing the co-pilot, and the associated flight controls, more weight is available for passengers, cargo, or fuel, he added.
At Heli-Expo, Sikorsky unveiled the latest version of its iPad flight calculator application for S-92 and S-76D helicopters. iFly Sikorsky v2.0 now connects to internet-based weather data (METAR) and offers an entirely new graphical interface. The iFly tool set allows for preflight planning and performance predictions based on ambient conditions and aircraft configuration. It also includes standard information such as normal operating procedures, checklists, emergency procedures, and other manuals.
The new software version radically streamlines the preflight calculations workflow, and reduces the number of discrete pilot actions required to conduct typical performance predictions. Location-based weather data can instantly be incorporated into the calculation pages, as well as data directly from the aircraft sent via the optional pilot interface module.