Looking to spur lagging sales, mfrs add innovative benefits to current models.
As govt buying continues, military contracts remain most sought after throughout rotary-wing industry.
Robinson Founder Frank Robinson with the new 5-seat R66 turbine helicopter. Certification and first deliveries are scheduled for early 2010.
Global recession hit this well known manufacturer of trainers and small general-purpose helicopters hard. Kurt Robinson, VP of product support, says, “We built 893 helicopters in 2008. In 2009 we were down to 433. People just had trouble getting financing.
It was worldwide. “The market has started to recover since last summer,” he adds. “We are seeing firming of orders, a few more orders coming in. It’s kind of like the world is righting itself.”
Robinson’s big hope for 2010 is the new R66, a 5-place model powered by the Rolls-Royce 300 turbine engine. Target price is under $1 million. Fuel consumption will be in the neighborhood of 22 gph. “It should be a good performer at a time when everyone is looking to save money,” Robinson comments.
“There is one area that I do see as another shining star,” he adds. “The US and most of the rest of the world has gone to high-definition television, and there’s a lot of pent-up demand for news helicopters.
People have gotten their news sites and trucks switched over. Now all the stations are starting to look toward the skies. “The R44 Raven II Newscopter is a fully integrated broadcast-quality HD studio. It’s gotten a lot of interest, especially from small TV stations that otherwise might not be able to afford state-of-the-art news-gathering technology. We expect this to be a significant source of business in the next few years.”
Sikorsky’s S76D first flew in Feb 2009 and entered production in December. The turbine-powered medium twin offers active rotor vibration control and optional rotor deicing.
Although the world’s first helicopter company felt the economic downturn of 2008 and 09, the recession was not as hard on Sikorsky as on some other manufacturers. The company is still producing Black Hawks and Seahawks, and the stable military market has taken up whatever slack the company might otherwise was felt.
Sikorsky Pres Jeff Pino.
“In the civilian market the S76 is still moving along fairly well,” adds Consultant Sergei Sikorsky. “I believe this is because of the offshore oil industry, which has begun some new exploration of late.” The company’s next military profit center is likely to be the CH53K, a heavylift chopper intended to replace the US Marine Corps’ CH53E.
With a payload of nearly 27,000 lbs and 110 miles useful range, the new model will have nearly triple the carrying capacity of its predecessor. Sikorsky received a $3-billion system development and demonstration contract for the craft in 2006, and a production run of 200 units is scheduled to begin in 2016.
Marvin Cetron is a forecaster/futurist and president of Forecasting Intl. His study for the Pentagon, Terror 2000, written in 1994, predicted the subsequent course of terrorism.