MARKET TRENDS

Helicopters—the only choice when it has to be point-to-point transportation

Safety enhancements, payload, range, speed and comfort are at the forefront when considering a V/STOL purchase.

By Ken Baylor
Lead Dispatcher, Flight Dept USA


Bell 407 has upgraded features, such as a FADEC controlled Rolls-Royce engine noted for its hot-and-high performance and ability to carry a larger payload.

In the diverse world of flying machines, the helicopter is unique—a machine that has been conceptualized for centuries and honed through recent decades.

Continuing a long legacy of missions such as VIP transport and land/sea rescue, today's world of helicopters is home to ever advancing technology, aerodynamics and payload capability.

However, helicopters are not only held to their regular designations of light, medium and heavy lifters—they are unique to every mission that the operator or owner will fly during the machine's lifetime. Thus, there are various configurations that have no designation but are designed and used on a daily basis.

"Factors that will affect the aircraft's maximum weight capabilities can be shared between safety enhancements, payload, range, speed and comfort," says Howard Winkler, president of V1 LLC—an aviation and technology project management firm—who is also a helicopter pilot and completion expert.

Comparative current equipment costs (in US$ millions). Prices will fluctuate with the addition of optional equipment and setup.

It is important to understand those unique requirements and weigh them up before shopping for equipment. Recommendations and considerations include but are not limited to:

• Passenger/cargo (payload) vs desired travel distance (range)
• Cost vs need
• Aircraft size and weight vs environment and landing site
• Mission requirements vs safety enhancements
• Warranty/service contract vs out-of-pocket financial risk

While these points provide a good starting point, independent industry experts can provide point and counterpoint data to help a customer draw proper conclusions while making these decisions.

Sikorsky

Sikorsky S92 has one of the largest cabins available today. (Above) Sikorsky Aircraft Pres Jeff Pino with S92 at Paris Airshow.

Since the 1980s, the S76 has seen success in the medium transport and utility category with several different variants throughout the years.

The S76C++ is the most current variant offering improved engine performance provided by dual Turbomeca Arriel 2S2 engines and a quieter transmission.

Inside, the pilots have seen many upgrades over the years. Today's S76C++ sports a Rockwell Collins Pro Line II avionics suite with a 4-tube Honeywell EFIS. Passengers will notice increased comfort in the same familiar spacious cabin.

Conklin & de Decker notes that the S76C++ can haul a 1688-lb payload with full fuel at a range of 335 nm. This makes the S76C++ suitable for corporate VIP transport over longer distances while maintaining excellent dispatch reliability.

Standard and optional safety features are available, including emergency floats and dual FADEC controlled engines.

With certification anticipated shortly, the S76D will see numerous updates including dual Pratt & Whitney PW210S engines and features such as active vibration control inside of the cabin.

Winkler notes, "Based on Sikorsky's track record in the S76 program, I anticipate the delivery of the D model with its enhanced capabilities to be a strong contender in its weight class and category."

A former contender for the next Presidential helicopter, the S92 has one of the largest cabins available on the market today. With a 26,500-lb MTOW, 700 cu ft cabin and 439-nm range, the S92 leads the way in the heavy helicopter class.

The S92 is aimed at both commercial and military operators that carry large loads through diverse operational theaters. It features such items as the health and usage management system (HUMS), lightning strike protection, optional rotor ice protection system (RIPS) and a fuel sponson design that keeps fuel away from the passengers.

Lifted by 2 GE CT7-8A turbo­shafts, the S92 can carry 2325 lbs of payload with full fuel. With this increased payload capability, the S92 is suited for VIP transport, search and rescue (SAR), high-capacity EMS, and long-range offshore oil operations.

AgustaWestland

AgustaWestland AW109 GrandNew has a lengthened cabin and main rotor, making it ideal for EMS missions.

AgustaWestland covers both ends of the spectrum, with light transport and heavy-duty helicopters in the form of the AW109 and AW139, respectively.

AW109 is AgustaWestland's multimission helicopter, capable of light transport, EMS/medevac, law enforcement and military profiles.

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