HEAVY LIFT HELOS
Offshore Oil and SAR form a combined market for big long-range helicopters.
AgustaWestland, Bell, Eurocopter, Kamov, Mil and Sikorsky are currently the strong contenders for heavy-lift missions to carry pax & supplies.
Based on the successful S-76-series, the D model features all-new P&WC 210S engines and an advanced Thales TopDeck avionics suite featuring a cursor control-type device.
The S76D made its first flight in Feb 2009–just over 3 decades after the inaugural flight of the first S76 aircraft. In all, Sikorsky has delivered over 815 of various models of S76 helicopters and they have accumulating over 6.2 million flight hours.
Sikorsky's newest model, S76D—other than the exterior shape—bears little resemblance to even its most recent predecessor, the S76C++. The D is a completely new aircraft—major changes include a new state-of-the-art Thales TopDeck avionics suite, a new main and tail rotor system and 2 new P&WC 210S engines (1070 shp/each) that are 25% more powerful and more fuel-efficient (8% lower specific fuel consumption) than the C++'s Turbomeca Arriel engines.
Other improvements include dual duplex (2-sets of 2 processors) autopilot that promises to offer the same level of sophistication as the autopilot system installed on the S92 aircraft. S76D received FAA certification in October 2012.
Based on the military Ka-60 Kasatka, the civil Ka-62 is powered by Turbomeca Ardiden 3G engines and a larger cabin. Certification is planned for 2014 with initial deliveries planned for offshore and military operators.
Russian Helicopters plans to boost the civil share of its sales to 50% in the near term. Much of this, according to the company, is due to strong demand from the oil and gas industry. In recent months, the Moscow-based company has won several orders for Kamov Ka-62 aircraft from 2 companies in Brazil— Petroleo Brasileiro (a state run oil company) and Atlas Taxi Aereo.
The Ka-62 is a 12-15 seat multi-role medium twin powered by Turbomeca Ardiden 3Gs (1680 shp/each). Kamov will utilize advanced composite structures and a 5-blade main rotor system. Max cruise speeds are listed at 162 KTAS with a 332 nm range. The first flight is expected soon with certification to follow in late 2014. Customer deliveries will begin in 2015.
Designed by the Mil Moscow Helicopter plant, the Mi-38 first flew in 2003. Offered with either Klimov TV7-117V or P&WC PW127 engines, the 30-passenger aircraft will replace older Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters.
In addition to the Ka-62, Russian Helicopters is busy developing a total of 6 new civil helicopter models ranging from a 5500-lbs turbine single (AS-350 class) to a massive 34,000-lbs twin (Mil-38).
Flying further out, going deep and finding that sweet spot
In the past, many single and light twin-engine helicopters were able to support the offshore oil and gas mission. These lighter aircraft, such as Bell 206/407 and Eurocopter AS350-types, could easily reach exploration and production facilities in shallower water located near the coast.
But today and in the future, oil and gas companies are exploring further offshore and are establishing deep-water installations that require much greater range, increased safety measures and larger cabins to satisfy mission requirements. Fulfilling these longer flight segments has been limited to the larger and heavier aircraft such as the EC225 and S92—these aircraft are very expensive (in +$20M range).
The new breed of super-medium and intermediate helicopters (AW139, AW189, Bell 525, EC175 and Ka-62) will provide great economics, excellent range capability and a smaller cabin that will fill the "sweet spot" just below the larger aircraft at a much lower cost.
Each of these aircraft, with their sophisticated autoflight systems and avionics will be excellent candidates also for the SAR role, filling an important life-saving mission.
Stuart Lau is a senior account manager for CAE Flightscape. He leads the IHST HFDM Working Group and acts as an IHST liaison to the Global HFDM Steering Group. He is also a pilot for a large international airline and a safety and accident investigation committee member. Lau has been associated with Pro Pilot since 1996.