Sikorsky’s S-92 helicopter fleet recently achieved its 2-million flight hour milestone, almost 24 years since its maiden flight.

S-92 has played a pivotal role in search and rescue (SAR) operations, completing over 91,000 SAR missions. It has also served as a dependable mode of transportation for personnel in the offshore oil and gas industry and a secure carrier for VIP missions. So far, the sophisticated helicopter for head of state missions by 13 countries, including the United States.

“The 2 million flight hours milestone is a testament to the reliability, availability, and cost-effectiveness of the S-92 helicopter in some of the world’s most demanding conditions and no-fail missions,” said Leon Silva in a statement released last Tuesday. Silva is Sikorsky’s interim vice president of Global Commercial and Military Systems.

“Sikorsky is committed to supporting these critical missions with continued innovation to ensure operators can respond safely and with confidence, in any scenario,” she added.

Sikorsky S-92
Sikorsky’s S-92 in action. (Image source: Lockheed Martin)

The cabin of the S-92 is 20 feet long (6.10 m), 6.6 feet wide (2.01 m), and six feet high (1.83 m), allowing passengers and crew to stand and move comfortably. As a SAR chopper, the S-92 can be equipped with single or dual rescue hoists, each of which can carry up to 272 kg and is electrically powered and controlled, with 290 feet (88.4 m) of usable cable and a spotlight. Additionally, the aircraft has “a superior SAR display that provides pilots with search patterns for multi-function displays.”

It also has a rear ramp that is about 2.13 meters wide for quick and easy cargo loading and offloading, which provides additional stowage space.

The S-92 is outfitted with an advanced rotor system and twin turboshaft engines with 5,000+ installed horsepower, making it dependable even in the harshest conditions.

Sikorsky is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest aerospace, military support, security, and technology companies.

Safe, Reliable Transport

The S-92 is an evolution of the S-70—US Army Black Hawk and US Navy Seahawk—helicopter and had its first flight in December 1998 at the Sikorsky Development Flight Centre in West Palm Beach, Florida. The development of the aircraft first transpired after the 1973 oil crisis, when oil and gas companies began exploring offshore production. The plane aimed to provide a safe environment with sufficient capacity to transport employees across the treacherous seas.

Four years after its test flight, S-92 received its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) part 29 certification and another two years for the European Aviation Safety Agency/Joint Aviation Authorities (EASA/JAA) certification in June 2004.

Sikorsky’s first customer, The Petroleum Helicopters Inc (PHI), acquired six helicopters for revenue service in September 2004 to provide offshore transportation for its personnel in the Gulf of Mexico.

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The manufacturer received over 75 orders—including from Cougar Helicopters, CHC Helicopter Corp. of Canada, and Bristow Group, to name a few—and by the end of 2009, Sikorsky will have delivered roughly 100 S-92 helicopters worldwide.

Aside from revenue service companies, government agencies also began procuring S-92s for VIP officials worldwide. Sikorsky then delivered its first fleet dedicated to SAR in 2007, which the public used as dependable transportation for a “multitude of missions including coastal and border control, emergency response, and humanitarian aid/disaster relief.”

Today, the S-92 has three known variants, including the S-92A civilian variant, 1) with an airliner-type interior that can accommodate up to 19 passengers and 2) a utility transport version that has 22 side-facing seats in a spacious, stand-up cabin; the H-92 Superhawk, used for military and SAR missions; and the VH-92, intended to serve as the next Marine One to fly the US President, which is still under development.

Sikorsky S-92 Infographics
(Source: Lockheed Martin)

In May 2016, the helicopter fleet passed the million-flight-hour mark. That same year it received the American Helicopter Society’s International Harry T. Jensen Award for best-in-class safety and greater than 95 percent aircraft availability.

Earlier this year, an unmodified S-92 made a 1,500-mile flight fueled only by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), a blend of biofuel and traditional jet fuel. It was the first long-distance flight using only SAF, which is thought to reduce carbon footprint by up to 80% compared to petroleum-based jet fuels.

As of July, the S-92 fleet has served 28 countries worldwide with a best-in-class safety record, proven and tested to operate even in extreme weather conditions.