1. New Sikorsky S-76D Headed to Market

    October 13, 2011 by admin

    Sikorsky is displaying its third development S-76D at Heli-Expo in Orlando, using the still-unflown aircraft to demonstrate the upgraded helicopter’s new Thales-developed integrated flight-deck.

    Announced at Heli-Expo in 2005, the S-76D is moving out of its protracted development phase and into certification flight-test and low-rate production. Initial certification is expected by year-end, with deliveries to begin in the first quarter of 2012—a four-year delay.

    Photos: Sikorsky

    The D model is a major upgrade to the S-76, more than 800 of which have been delivered since it first flew in 1977. With more-powerful engines, improved rotor and integrated avionics, the S-76D is designed to combine the single-engine performance of the corporate-preferred S-76B with the cruise fuel-efficiency of the offshore-favored S-76C.

    “We get the power of the B with the efficiency of the C family, which is attractive from an operating cost perspective,” says Tim Fox, S-76 senior program manager. Increased power and rotor lift improve hot-and-high performance, dual-speed rotors reduce noise and a rotor ice protection system allows the D to operate in more challenging environments.

    “We have power, performance, best-in-class fuel burn, and the D is extremely quiet for its size,” he says. Priced about the same as a similarly equipped C++, the D can lift 1,000lb more and fly 400nm versus 375. These improvements will allow Sikorsky to offer a single model across markets that previously were segmented, Fox says.

    “The D gives us openings into new markets and areas of the world, hotter environments where the C could not operate and the B had the power, but not the specific fuel consumption,” says David Franc, S-76 marketing manager. Improved high-altitude performance opens up VIP and EMS markets such as Denver and Mexico City, while “we can go further offshore with greater launch reliability”.

    Photos: Sikorsky

    Powered by a pair of digitally controlled, 1,050-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210S turboshafts, the D model introduces flaw-tolerant all-composite blades, a Thales TopDeck cockpit with large-format displays and four-axis autopilot, and optional electrically deiced rotors that allow flight into known icing. Active vibration control and health and usage monitoring systems are standard.

    After the delays, caused by unexpected and unspecified discoveries during development, the S-76D is on track to meet its performance targets. “Shake-down tests identified weaknesses, which we have fixed,” says Fox, adding “the helicopter is quieter than predicted, rotor lift is slightly greater than predicted and fuel efficiency is on plan.”

    Two prototypes, D1 and D2, have logged more than 300hr since the first flight in February 2009, with certification testing getting under way in November 2010. The third aircraft, D3, will join the 750hr. flight-test program later this year, tasked with avionics certification. D1 is moving into powerplant certification from system development, and D2 into performance testing from avionics and autopilot development.

    S-76 airframes are manufactured in the Czech Republic by Aero Vodochody and in China by Changhe Aircraft Industries. Aero delivered the first production S-76D airframe to Sikorsky’s final-assembly plant in Coatesvillle, Pa., in December and, with the last S-76C++ to be delivered this December, Changhe is expected to transition to the new model late this year. “We envision dual-sourcing on the D, but this is to be worked out,” says Fox.

  2. Very Light Jet Airplanes Coming To Air Charter

    November 10, 2010 by admin

    Very Light Jets (VLJ’s) are micro jets, and there are a few new designs coming to the jet charter market. They promise to bring most of the speed and luxury of large corporate jets at a fraction of the operating cost, and size.


    Chartering a cabin class corporate jet such as the Gulfstream comes with a price. Flying this flagship business jet will run you around $5,000 per hour. The Eclipse 500 and Diamond D-Jet are currently chartering in the neighborhood of $1,300 per hour. You miss out on the big jet appeal when fly a VLJ, but you can comfortably move four people in these small jets without the big price tag.


    The Eclipse 500 joined the charter ranks a few years ago. It promised to have a big production run and even bigger impact on the air taxi and charter business. Over 200 aircraft were made before the company ran into financial difficulty. These airplanes are still flying strong in the jet charter ranks and fill an important niche.


    The Diamond D-Jet is similar is size and scope to the Eclipse. Both jet aircraft with cruise almost 1,500 miles at speeds close to 400 mph. Diamond has not experienced the financial difficulties suffered by Eclipse and continues its production run. Both of these charter jets have price tags in the two million dollar range. This makes the $1,300 per hour charter rate a bargain. By comparison a turboprop charter is more expensive and moves slower.


    Eclipse 500


    Diamond D-Jet


    Piper Aircraft, best known for its single engine propeller airplanes, is ramping up facilities to produce the Piper Jet. This single engine jet will carry four passengers just as the current VLJ aircraft, but will have the full marketing and production might of Piper Aircraft behind it. The Piper Jet is scheduled to hit the jet charter market in 2012 or 2013. This will be the only single engine jet available for charter. It will be interesting to see how this airplane is received by the air charter population. Modern single engine airplanes are extremely safe and reliable, but the paying charter crowd will decide if they are comfortable with only one engine. In my experience, many charter flyers specifically request twin engine charter airplanes for their peace of mind.


    Piper Jet


    Piper Jet Interior


    The Honda HA-420 HondaJet should be arriving with the PiperJet in late 2012 or early 2013. It may be the fastest VLJ at close to 500 mph. Seating will accommodate four to six based on the configuration. The most interesting feature of the HondaJet so far is the mounting of the engines. They are carried on wing pods above the wings. VLJ’s do not have the ground clearance to carry engines below the wings as a conventional airlines does; most are mounted near the tail.


    These two additions to the jet charter fleet should stir things up a bit. They should have a larger footprint than the Eclipse 500 and Diamond D-Jet as Honda and Piper have more marketing and production dollars at their disposal. This should also keep the VLJ charter cost competitive considering the increased number of VLJ aircraft available for jet charter.




    HondaJet Interior