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Thursday, November 1, 2012

FAA Certifies S-76D; Bond S-92 Completions Begin

By Andrew Parker, Editor-in-Chief

A line of S-76Ds at Sikorsky’s plant in Coatesville, Pa.

Bond Aviation Group CEO Richard Mintern visited Sikorsky’s commercial manufacturing plant in Coatesville, Pa. in early October to examine the initial two baseline S-92s that are part of a 16-aircraft order placed during Heli-Expo in February 2012.

Bond Aviation’s group fleet and engineering director, Martin Whittaker, came along to get a look at the green S-92 combo that will go into service with Norsk Helikopter in January 2013 following completions at Sikorsky Global Helicopters (SGH) in Coatesville.

“I’m excited. Today is a momentous day really, where we come and do our first acceptance of the aircraft. We’re very pleased to be teaming with Sikorsky,” Mintern said on Oct. 4 before a handover ceremony with more than 50 employees, including Sikorsky Global Helicopters director of programs Dan Hunter and Ed Beyer, vice president and general manager.
The partnership marks the first time that Bond will operate a Sikorsky variant. The World Helicopter Group subsidiary primarily flies Eurocopter types, including the AS332, AS365N3 and EC225, as well as a few AgustaWestland helicopters.

Mintern noted that around 45 percent of the organization’s fleet is dedicated to HEMS/search and rescue, 30 percent to safety and environment, and about 25 percent energy services/oil and gas.

The hangar doors open up at the Sikorsky S-92 area in Coatesville. Bond Aviation Group is due to receive its first two S-92s in January 2013.
The total fleet across five divisions amounts to 365 aircraft, with about 85 percent rotary wing. Mintern, who became CEO of Bond Aviation Group earlier this year, said he has “taken a keen interest in HUMS [health and usage monitoring system] and how they monitor the aircraft in real-time, and was very impressed with the intellect and the processes by which [Sikorsky engineers] review that data and support us as customers.” He implemented “100-day safety plan” following a May 2012 ditching incident involving a Bond-operated EC225 in the North Sea. The just-completed 100-day plan covers four key areas, including managing HUMS indications “more dynamically,” according to Mintern. “We’ve worked very hard to put further barriers in place along with Eurocopter,” he said. “Safety is inherent in everything we do. We cannot work in this industry without that being at the forefront of our minds.” Sikorsky’s Coatesville plant is home to the S-92 and S-76D production lines, as well as the S-300C. FAA issued the type certificate for the S-76D on Oct. 12, giving the green light to begin addressing a backlog that is estimated at close to $500 million. Sikorsky also reports a full order book for the S-92 through 2013, specifically noting agreements with offshore and SAR/utility operators.

Sikorsky has obtained the S-76D type certificate.
Sikorsky experienced some technical delays with the certification program for the S-76D, after the first prototype took flight in 2009. The S-76D features Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210S engines, Thales TopDeck avionics, HUMS and all-composite main rotor blades.

According to Sikorsky officials, all of the various configurations for the S-76D will be available with first deliveries in early 2013, including VIP, offshore and SAR. One of the only exceptions is certification for the rotor ice protection system. “Because it’s so calendar driven,” Beyer explained, the certification delays “pushed the icing to the right. We’re forecasting dry air testing and subsystem qualification activities on rotor ice protection this winter, and then we will fly behind the tanker and find natural icing the following winter. So we’d say by the end of next winter we’ll have full certification for the ice protection.”

Beyer explained that Sikorsky plans to deliver 10-14 baseline S-76Ds this year. Coatesville will produce more than 30 S-92s during 2012, a 60 percent increase in production over 2011. The uptick will help address the demand for the S-92, according to Beyer.

SGH also carries out airframe assembly for the CH-148 Canadian Maritime Helicopter before final assembly occurs in West Palm Beach, Fla. The Coatesville location is a silver Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) site, according to standards from parent company UTC.

Beyer noted that SGH is seeing “a lot of metrics that are hitting gold standard,” adding that gold certification is anticipated in another year or two.

“Our focus has been to do what we’ve done—get control of completions so that we can deliver a very high quality product to our customers, and then also creating a truly commercial piece of the business. And that’s been very successful,” Beyer said.

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