Demand from oil and gas operators is likely to be the main driver in the development of any new commercial helicopter model from .
Around two-thirds of the company’s S-92s are in service with oil and gas operators around the world according to company president Mick Maurer, and demand from this industry has driven the development of new, larger, twin-engine helicopters.
“We are still evaluating, looking at what makes the most sense, the [right] configuration and when it makes sense to kick that off,” he told Aviation Week during an interview on the eve of the Farnborough air show.
“We have only just started to deliver the S-76D and so that’s really been the focus on the commercial side, but I think at some point, it will be the right time to develop a new type model, but we are not there yet.”
Maurer suggested that any new commercial project would likely benefit from the addition of fly-by-wire controls, used on several military helicopters including the CH-148 Cyclone, developed for the Canadian armed forces. Bell’s Model 525 may be the first to feature fly-by-wire controls when it makes its first flight later this year.
“We look at every opportunity at its face value and when it presents itself, it's not an either or,” Maurer said.
“The biggest segment tends to be oil and gas about two-thirds today and probably won’t change by too much going into the future."
“Having said that, in the commercial world, we have seen more and more search and rescue, more head of states and VIP missions as well as more adaptation of commercial products into the military side and that gives you more of a world view when you are ready to introduce these products,” he added.
“Now that the president has picked the S-92, the U.S. military is going to have that product in their inventory so we will see where that goes in terms of how you view the development of products in the commercial world.”
Maurer says it is continuing to make incremental improvements to its S-92 with increases in maximum gross weight as well as improvements in cockpit automation and avionics capacity. In May, the company receivedcertification for an update to its Avionics Management System (AMS). Version 8.0 of the AMS provides display enhancements to existing functions supporting capabilities such Category A take offs, enhanced search-and-rescue patterns, and the rig approach system to reduce workload for offshore crews. The update also provides a growth path to adding a fully integrated Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) II and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) out. EASA certification for Rig Approach is expected this year.