Heli insights on post pandemic world – in three models: LCI Analytics


Last year Sikorsky delivered three SAR helicopters to two Korean operators.

Offshore flight activity now exceeds pre-Covid levels for most types of helicopters, according to LCI Analytics. Four years on from the global pandemic, manning levels have returned to normal or near normal. Here, the firm’s MD, Steve Robertson takes the temperature of the heavier lift market via three units – the H-175, AW189 and the S-92.

The Airbus H175 has seen a strong increase in the number of offshore crew transfer flights in the past two years as a function of new deliveries, Robertson wrote. Eight new aircraft have come into the offshore market and have joined other helicopters, which have left long-term maintenance.

There has also been movement of aircraft to regions such as Brazil where the number of flights flown per day tends to be higher than some other offshore regions. “Airbus’ maturity programme is paying dividends with several H175s logging more than 1,300 hours each in 2023 whereas only two years prior none of the fleet were flying at this intensity,” he wrote. Backed by a strong order book for the type, Airbus recently revealed its intension to quadruple its production capacity.

AW189 programme

The AW189 programme has been busy over the past four years – particularly in the military and search-and-rescue (SAR) markets, according to LCI Analytics. A total of three units have been delivered to the offshore fleet during this time. This will change in the coming years as orders from Bristow and oil companies are delivered, he predicted.

“Leonardo has been busy improving the performance of the aircraft for the offshore market through a substantial weight reduction programme on both the standard and extended range models,” he commented. The AW189 is fully FIPS (Full Ice Protection System) certified and this will lend itself well to applications in and around the North Sea, judged Robertson.

The S-92 has seen a more-gradual recovery in activity and has been hampered by supply-chain problems and the challenges in returning aircraft to service, according to LCI Analytics. The analyst commends the OEM for shipping more than 230,000 parts last year. “But it is the lack of availability of 10-15 or so critical assemblies and components (e.g. gear boxes, main rotor dampers, windshields, heat exchangers, floats, etc.) that is hampering the dispatch reliability of the type,” wrote Robertson.

S-92 flight activity

Sikorsky S-92 flight activity during most weeks of the fourth quarter of last year exceeded pre-Covid levels. Just two S-92s have been delivered in the offshore market since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The current announced orderbook for offshore S-92s is zero albeit much speculation remains concerning the 14 unbuilt cabins,” wrote Robertson.

“At HAI 2024 Sikorsky confirmed that as and when these remaining cabins are built they will be S-92A+ units with the latest Phase IV gearbox and 27,700lb gross weight upgrade and the newer CT6-8A6 engines.” LCI Analytics said this offer improved safety benefits – in terms of both run-dry performance and one engine inoperative performance – and a notable improvement in payload/range performance. Read the full LCI Analytics’ report here.

Meanwhile, last December Sikorsky re-affirmed its commitment to the manufacture and support of S-92A commercial helicopters. Leon Silva, vice president of Sikorsky’s Global Commercial and Military Systems told Helicopter Investor: “Sikorsky is committed to the S-92A and our commercial customers. Sikorsky delivered three SAR helicopters to two Korean search and rescue [SAR] operators this year.”