October 15, 2012
Credit: Photo Credit: Sikorsky Aircraft
Graham Warwick Coatesville, Pa.
Sikorsky's decision to set its civil business up as a separate operation is paying off, as the company ramps up to meet demand for its commercial helicopters while sales of its military products come under pressure.
After more than a decade of growth on deliveries of its Black Hawk and Seahawk military helicopters, Sikorsky projects a 5% drop in sales this year as budget pressures squeeze domestic and international production volumes.
Led by the energy sector, the global commercial helicopter market is recovering more quickly than expected from the economic slump and is boosting order books at Sikorsky and Bell Helicopter, and at European rivals AgustaWestland and Eurocopter, just as they face a downturn in their military business.
While Sikorsky's military revenues are forecast to fall by about 15% this year, sales at commercial division Sikorsky Global Helicopters (SGH) are expected to rise 30% on strong demand for the 19-passenger S-92 in the offshore oil and gas and search-and-rescue (SAR) markets.
Civil sales will also be boosted by first deliveries of the S-76D, the latest version of Sikorsky's popular 12-passenger helicopter. With delayed FAA certification of the S-76D expected this week, Sikorsky plans to deliver 10-14 green aircraft this year, says Ed Beyer, vice president and general manager of SGH. The first completed S-76D is scheduled for delivery to a Middle Eastern VIP customer in the first quarter.
At Bell Helicopter, the commercial recovery is helping the company balance a business that, like Sikorsky's, has grown on sales of its military rotorcraft to the U.S. government. But Bell has to reinvigorate its civil product line before it can fully tap into the demand.
The surge in civil activity is evident at Sikorsky's commercial helicopter facility here, where final assembly and completion of the S-92 and S-76D are performed. The plant's workforce, now at 1,200, is growing by 40% this year and by the same again in 2013, says Dorith Hakim, the facility's general manager.