December 22, 2002 :
Sikorsky unveils civilian helicopter, 1st in 30 years
STRATFORD, CT, USA ( ROB VARNON for CONNECTICUT POST ) -
Sikorsky Aircraft unveiled the S-92 Thursday, its first new civilian helicopter
in approximately 30 years. "It's been a full generation since we had an occasion like this," said Sikorsky
President Dean Borgman.
Borgman gave a brief account of the history of Sikorsky Aircraft during a
special company ceremony that celebrated the S-92's attaining Federal Aviation
Administration certification. Borgman said that the last civilian helicopter
the company developed was the S-76 almost 30 years ago.
He said the S-92 would be this generation of Sikorsky workers' legacy.
While company executives thanked the 250 workers who brought the S-92 to life,
the FAA reminded them what a historic moment the S-92's certification was.
"On Dec. 17, precisely 99 years after the Wright brothers flight at Kitty Hawk"
the S-92's certification was signed, according to Amy Corbett, the New England
Regional administrator of the FAA.
Corbett said what a wonder it was to see the birth of "the world's safest
helicopter," on the same day as the first flight.
The S-92 can carry 19 passengers, reach speeds of 165 knots and fly more than
500 nautical miles. It was developed as an offshoot of Sikorsky's Black Hawk
and Seahawk helicopters, which are widely used by the military.
It can be configured for use at offshore oil refineries, commercial aviation
and may one day carry the president, according to Borgman.
Ret. Lt. Col. Gerald Hopkins, the FAA's chief test pilot of the S-92, said the
26,000-pound aircraft handled smoothly.
Hopkins was familiar with Sikorsky aircraft, having flown the Black Hawk during
his military career.
He said the cockpit was especially comfortable and praised the use of displays
instead of gauges.
The S-92 uses several display screens to inform pilots of the status of fuel
and other flight systems.
The new helicopter will go into production in March 2003 and will be assembled
alongside the Comanche attack helicopter at Sikorsky's renovated Bridgeport
facilities. The first S-92 could be delivered to a customer as early as March
Nick Lappos, a Bridgeport native and the S-92 program manager, said what is new
about the helicopter is not immediately visible.
"Superficially, it looks like any helicopter, but inside it's a whole new
animal," Lappos said.
Lappos, an engineer and a graduate of Bridgeport Central High School, said the
flight systems, rotary assembly and a variety of other systems had been
upgraded using the latest technology. Comparing the S-92 to the company's
previous helicopter models, he said, would be like comparing a 2002 model car
to a 1975 Chevy.
In all, 17 Sikorsky divisions worked since the inception of the program in 1990
to bring the helicopter together under four chief engineers, according to
Lappos. Sections of the aircraft were also produced at facilities in China,
Spain, Brazil and Japan.
Fairfield-based General Electric Co.'s Lynn, Mass., facility produced the
S-92's engine and Windsor-based Hamilton Sundstram created the flight systems
for the helicopter.
Sikorsky spokeswoman Sheena Steiner said the company could not comment on the
number of jobs the S-92 would create in the area. But the new helicopter will
be sold on the international market, where Sikorsky has reported it has not
been doing well.
The company has blamed a lack of international business for its trimming of
more than 300 jobs over the last two months.
Lappos said customers had already placed 20 orders for the S-92.
A fully loaded S-92 configured to carry 19 passengers to an offshore oil
refinery could cost about $15.5 million, according to Steiner.
Paul Martin, Sikorsky's senior vice president of government and advanced
development, said the S-92 also could be converted for military
search-and-rescue operations; the company, he said, will move forward on those
applications as demand grows.
News: Sikorsky wins first S-92 orders
News: S-92 flying with production engine