Sikorsky has received long-awaited FAA type certification for the S-76D, the latest version of its twin-turbine intermediate helicopter. The first completed aircraft is scheduled for delivery to a Middle East VIP customer in the first quarter of 2013.

Originally planned for 2008, certification was hit by a series of delays, most recently in June when flight testing was halted by the discovery of cracks in structure in the engine bay.

The S-76D has Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210S engines, composite rotor blades, Thales integrated flight-deck and autopilot, health and usage monitoring and rotor ice protection systems.

Sikorsky has 16 S-76Ds on the production line at its Coatesville, Pa., commercial helicopter facility awaiting certificates of airworthiness. Following certification, these aircraft can be moved into customization for delivery.

The company says it has an order backlog approaching $500 million for the S-76D, including from customers in the offshore-support, search-and-rescue, medical-transport and VIP markets. The S-76D is 21 kt faster a best range speed than the previous model, the S-76C++, and burns 8% less fuel at that speed, says Sikorsky President Mick Maurer. The D model also has 1,100 lb more useful load.

Delays to baseline certification pushed back approval of the rotor ice protection system. Dry air test is now planned this winter, with flight tests in natural icing planned for the winter of 2013-14.

Production is planned to ramp up to three a month in 2013. S-76 airframes are produced in the Czech Republic by Aero Vodohody, with final assembly, completion and delivery at Coatesville.

China is expected to be a major market for the S-76D. Changhe Aircraft Industries, which also built airframes for the C++, is likely to produce the D model, says Ed Beyer, vice present and general manager of Sikorsky Global Helicopters.