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Goodbye Sikorsky S300

The focus at last week’s Heli-Expo in Orlando was naturally on the larger end of the helicopter market, from the first public display of the AgustaWestland AW609 Tiltrotor to Airbus Helicopters’ snazzy unveil of the H160. But one of the more interesting moments came almost as a footnote at a poorly attended Sikorsky press conference.

“Everyone’s always interested in the lights,” said Dan Hunter, director of Sikorsky’s commercial line. Yet despite that interest, Sikorsky has all but killed the S300 and its derivatives. Hunter said the company won’t take any new orders, focusing instead of filling its very slim backlog that has come from foreign government sales as part of group buys.¬†Hunter said Sikorsky is working hard to firm up the supply chain in order to produce these few orders, and to a certain extent, to fill parts requests.

And therein lies the good news for current S300 operators. What was a dire situation a year or two ago with parts availability and factory support now seems to be something less than an emergency situation. “We’re not there yet, but we’re working to get it done,” Hunter said. The same inventory and support goals for the company’s other products also extend to the S300 and its variants.

On some level, I don’t blame Sikorsky. The aftermarket support brings in about $10 million a year, Hunter said. For sake of comparison, that’s about the cost of a new S-76D. When the bosses are sitting in a board room trying to figure out where to allocate resources it’s hard to justify the expense of establishing an inventory and support staff for a business that brings in the same revenue as one additional airframe sale. Why give a business unit leader a few million bucks and tell her to spend all her time contracting and supporting a supply chain when you can give Jim an expense account and tell him to sell one more helicopter?

Which does open the question of why Sikorsky bought the type certificate in the first place. To that, Hunter says he is convinced that knowing what they knew at the time it was a good buy. Peel back the layers, he says, and problems started to emerge. The manufacturing process wasn’t up to Sikorsky standards, he said. No offense, Elmira.

So, does that mean the S300 and its cousins are destined for a long life of purgatory, existing only on a piece of paper? Maybe not. Hunter hinted many times that Sikorsky could offload the business at the right time. It might work under someone else, he said.

4 Comments

  1. It is a shame that Sikorsky is allowing the 300 series to whither away. While Robinson has gained the lion’s share of the training market, the 300 has been an excellent training ship for many years. Originally designed to military specs, it exhibited the ruggedness expected of a primary training aircraft. It wasn’t fast, flashy or cheap. It allowed the student time to make mistakes and the instructor time to recover. The generous rotor arc allowed realistic simulated engine failure training with reasonable safety. In 35 years of operating 300Cs as primary training aircraft, I am continually impressed at how capable this design continues to be. Yes, several have hit the ground in a less than satisfactory manner. And in many cases, the occupants have emerged, chastened but unscathed. Shame on you, Sikorsky!

  2. Andre Leonard

    April 4, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Sorry that such a good training helicopter is being mothballed. I learned to fly in the Hughes 300, the premier trainer of it’s day.

  3. I always had the opinion that sikorsky bought them for the drone business, schweitzer built one of the first military helicopter drones, and when nothing came of that they had no other interest in the co.

  4. This is criminal, but unfortunately a common fate in aviation. As time passes we will approach a precipice where beyond that point a lack of flying ships will cause interest to be lost and possible ROI will dictate that the type will be outmoded completely. Already training costs in 300’s has gone up 30-40% over the last 6 years, and new pilots are forced to accept the less appropriate R22.

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