Sikorsky Aircraft Celebrates Unprecedented Period of First Flights
Fresh off the inaugural flight of the S-76D helicopter on Feb. 7, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. today celebrated its success in achieving first flights on eight distinct helicopter programs over the course of 16 months – seven of the first flights within a seven-month period – and focused on moving its innovative programs forward in 2009.
Since the Dec. 20, 2007 first flight of the H-92 Fly-by-Wire helicopter, Sikorsky has conducted successful first flights of the CH-148 Fly-by-Wire variant of the H-92 helicopter, the X2 Technology demonstrator, the International S-70B helicopter, the UH-60M Upgrade, the Armed BLACK HAWK helicopter, the S-434 helicopter, and most recently, the S-76D helicopter.
“It has been a remarkable time of innovation and flight success for Sikorsky, and we are extremely proud of what has been accomplished,” said Kevin Bredenbeck, Director of Test & Evaluation and Chief Test Pilot for the X2 Technology demonstrator program. “Sikorsky has literally taken its commitment to innovation to new heights, and we look forward to achieving new milestones in each of these fine programs.”
The S-76D helicopter is the latest version of the S-76 helicopter. It made its first flight on Feb. 7, 2009, moving that program into its next phase of testing its enhanced useful load and extended range performance over the S-76C+ and S-76C++ aircraft currently fielded. Among the S-76D helicopter’s features are all-composite, flaw-tolerant main rotor blades; an advanced Thales avionics system and autopilot; dual speed rotor with active vibration control; powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada 210S engines; a quiet mode for enhanced public acceptance; and an optional Rotor Ice Protection System (RIPS) for all-weather capability.
The X2 Technology demonstrator completed its first flight on Aug. 27, 2008, and recently achieved another milestone with its successful ground run test using the fly-by-wire pitch control system with the rotating, high-speed pusher propeller for the first time. The X2 Technology Program has four test phases, ultimately working up to achieve 250 knots at the completion of Phase IV by the end of 2009.
The X2 TECHNOLOGY demonstrator combines an integrated suite of technologies intended to advance the state-of-the-art, counter-rotating coaxial
rotor helicopter. It is designed to demonstrate a helicopter can cruise comfortably at 250 knots, while retaining such desirable helicopter attributes as excellent low speed handling, efficient hovering and autorotation safety, and a seamless and simple transition to high speed.
Four of the aircraft that comprised Sikorsky’s historic run of first flights featured Fly-by-Wire technology (FBW) designed to significantly improve aircraft maneuverability, safety and effectiveness. The system electronically links the controls inside the cockpit with the exterior actuators, the movement of which enable the aircraft to maneuver where and how the pilot intends. Eliminating the traditional mechanical linkage saves weight, reduces maintenance costs, adds capability and improves performance.
The first H-92 helicopter to feature FBW technology completed its first flight on Dec. 20, 2007. The milestone flight ushered in a new era for the H-92 product line and is the first of a new generation of helicopters designed to new and more demanding standards of safety and reliability.
Also featuring FBW technology is the UH-60M Upgrade helicopter, the newest model of the BLACK HAWK helicopter, which took its first flight on Aug. 29, 2008 In addition to the FBW flight control system that incorporates “active stick” technology and dual channel-triple redundant flight control computers, other technologies the UH-60M Upgrade BLACK HAWK helicopter employs are a glass cockpit, which incorporates the Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) and Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC).
The S-434 helicopter is the next iteration of the model 333 helicopter, incorporating many of the design and performance technologies developed on the Fire Scout VTUAV (Vertical Take Off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). It has a four-bladed rotor system, increased power and a larger fuel tank, giving it the ability to fly farther and faster while having a larger useful load than its predecessor. The S-434 helicopter flew for the first time on Dec. 18, 2008.
The International S-70B helicopter achieved its first flight on Aug. 28, 2008, while the Armed BLACK HAWK (ABH) helicopter flew its maiden flight on Sept. 9, 2008. This successful flight test supports the concept that a utility aircraft can serve as a platform for an attack helicopter. This aircraft will provide additional firepower and mission flexibility while building upon the combat-proven heritage of the world’s most successful medium-lift utility rotorcraft.
The Canadian Maritime Helicopter Program’s H-92 helicopter flew on Nov. 15, 2008, for the first time. The aircraft, a CH-148 Cyclone, is a derivative of the S-92 commercial helicopter fielded by Sikorsky, and is intended for missions including anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search-and-rescue, and troop and cargo transport. The aircraft has FBW flight controls, automatic blade and tail fold, anti-icing and a deck recovery assist system.
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