Sikorsky Pushes Back S-92A+ Market Entry, Shelves S-92B Plans
ATLANTA—Sikorsky has pushed back certification and market entry of its S-92A+ upgrade two years to 2025 and shelved plans for a future S-92B.
The Lockheed Martin subsidiary originally planned for a 2023 entry into service for the S-92A+ but decided to “throttle” the development effort back, Leon Silva, vice president of Global Commercial and Military Systems at Sikorsky, told journalists at Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo in Atlanta, Georgia March 7.
Sikorsky hired an external consultancy firm to examine the potential market for the heavy rotorcraft upgrade, concluding that “2025 was a good match for the [market] expectations” for service entry, Silva says.
S-92 fleets are currently experiencing some of their highest levels of usage in part due to the growth in oil-and-gas operations prompted by energy price rises since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Several rotorcraft OEMS have reported that the improving offshore helicopter market, stifled for years by over-supply, is now driving up aircraft utilization and opening the way for potential orders for new helicopters.
Under current plans, once certification of the S-92A+ is completed, all new-build aircraft will be produced to that standard.
The key component in the S-92A+ upgrade is the Phase IV main gearbox, as well as a package of weight-reduction features and a higher maximum gross weight capability of 27,700 lb.
Sikorsky currently has a backlog of fewer than 10 S-92A+ helicopters. The company is actively seeking orders here at Heli-Expo in the hopes of enabling a production rate of 12 aircraft a year.
Industry observers had questioned the future of the S-92 after Sikorsky made the decision to close the S-92 production and final assembly line at Coatesville, Pennsylvania, in March 2022.
However, Silva confirmed the OEM is currently building five S-92As out of its facility in West Palm Beach, Florida—a pair for the Korean Coast Guard and a trio of VIP aircraft.
The company has not decided on a final home for S-92 production, although Silva noted that Lockheed Martin currently has 3 million square feet of space available in its facilities for a potential S-92 assembly line.
Plans for a more advanced S-92B that could have been equipped with Sikorsky’s Matrix autonomous flight technology along with a modernized airframe and larger cabin windows saw “limited interest in the marketplace,” Silva says. He added that preliminary work was done on the program, but the decision was made to shelve the S-92B until there is greater market interest.
Meanwhile, Sikorsky is building the final three S-76D twin-engine medium helicopters in Owego, New York. Two are destined for Japan’s Coast Guard, while the third will be delivered to a VIP customer.
Like the S-92, S-76s are flying at the highest rates seen in two or three years, but that has not translated into market interest for new aircraft, Silva says.
The company is exploring other opportunities for the S-76 including partnerships that could continue production overseas. Some reports have suggested India as an option, but Silva would not confirm this. He added, however, that there are nations looking for helicopters for pseudo-military missions.