The people who are interested in the world of helicopters, Sikorsky is a name that they will recognize almost instantly. Being one of the first manufacturers of civil and military-use helicopters in the world, Sikorsky was established in 1923 by Igor Sikorsky, an aviator who is known far and wide for his skills. In 1923, Sikorsky was founded near Roosevelt Field, New York by Igor Sikorsky. Born in Kyiv, Sikorsky moved to the United States in 1919 due to the dwindling situation at home where the Bolsheviks had threatened to shoot him. He had to leave a thriving business behind in Kyiv, something that must have truly broken him as a human being. However, the world soon realized that Sikorsky had much more to give to the world still. This came in the form of Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation. One of their first truly successful products was the S-38, something that helped them obtain more capital to the tune of $5 million dollars. This helped them with purchasing land and even a factory in Stratford. In fact, a few years later, the company completely relocated to Stratford, Connecticut. In the same year, the corporation also became part of United Aircraft and Transport Corporation. The company would go on towards much greater successes in its pursuit of becoming one of the most historic aviation companies of all time.
Once he had arrived in the US, Sikorsky wanted to bring his vision of the development of a new generation of multiengine land planes and even amphibious aircraft. However, times were tough during the back end of the 1930s and sales started to take a big hit. For any company, its operating revenue in many ways is its lifeblood. It cannot survive without money coming in. For a high-tech setup like Sikorsky’s, this rung even more true since his company had to invest heavily in research which would eventually bear fruit in the form of aircraft that would see the light of production. This kind of cycle cannot be run without a lot of money coming in through the system. Once sales declined, the bough had broken for Sikorsky, and the only option was a merger. United Aircraft ended up merging Sikorsky with Vought Aircraft.
This would turn out to be a blessing in disguise, with this shift influencing his decision to focus on building helicopters. The VS-300 was the first helicopter that came out of his assembly line. The V stands for Vought and the S stands for Sikorsky, indicating that it was a joint effort by this newly merged entity. The helicopter was of course the child of Sikorsky. The VS-300 was a great first effort, hitting the right spots in many ways. Perhaps in another timeline, the story would be dominated by the rise of the VS-300. However, it would prove to be useful more as a steppingstone for Sikorsky. After deeply analyzing the production of the VS-300, Sikorsky was ready to come up with something even better.
The Sikorsky R-4 was the result of a lot of hard work and tenacity. It was the first stable helicopter that only possessed a single rotor and was fully controllable as well. What’s best is that it entered full-scale production as well, breaking walls with every part being put in. It is very important to understand the importance of R-4. It is the first iPhone for the helicopter industry. Everything that came before the R-4 completely paled in comparison and everything that was to come after the R-4 would always owe a debt to this great helicopter.
Today, the microscope is going to be pointed toward the Sikorsky S-76, a twin turboshaft wonder with a host of features making it one of the best commercial utility helicopters in terms of size.
The Development Process
The Sikorsky S-76 in many ways a shift of direction for Sikorsky Aircraft as a whole. Previously, they had developed helicopters that were mainly used in the military. The increase in demand of commercial-use helicopters in the 70s was one of the main reasons why there was a particular shift in direction for the Sikorsky S-76. The company had decided that it needed to be able to tap into the market of commercial helicopters as the bulge in demand simply could not be ignored. The story of the S-76 begins with the S-70. In fact, the S-76 was able to directly lift the technology of the S-70 such as the rotor blades and the rotor heads. The prototype went for its first flight in March 1977. The FAA-type certification was to follow in 1978 and only a few months later customer deliveries had already begun as well. In fact, one little interesting tidbit is that the Sikorsky S-76 was initially known as ‘Spirit’ but the name had to be scrapped due to the word not translating well in other languages.
The S-76A was a revolution in the aircraft industry due to many reasons. By 1982, it had a host of records under its belt. These included the records for range, climb, speed, and even ceiling. It was clear that the S-76A was truly a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter, breaking metaphorical ceilings for the industry in the years to come. The S-76 MK II came along in 192 and the S-76B was released to the masses in 1987. By the turn of the century, over 500 S-76s had been delivered to customers.
Despite the fact that the Sikorsky S-76 was mainly seen as a more commercial aircraft, the view of Sikorsky as a dependable helicopter has still persisted in the minds of militaries around the world. When it comes to acquiring any piece of technology for the army, the one and only most critical requirement is dependability. It is no secret that assets that have to be used by the military need to always be on song. They will be neglected because if a vehicle is able to go through a war, it should be able to go through a few missed oil changes. When an aircraft is working for the military, the stakes are even higher. Billions of dollars worth of taxpayer money is being spent by militaries around the world. The sticker price for these aircraft is high and they need to be able to live up to the hype. This is exactly why Sikorsky has been a favorite for institutions and governments around the world to use. Everyone from the Serbian Ministry of the Interior to the Royal Australian Air Force has gotten their hands on the Sikorsky S-76.
According to statistics, offshore missions make up about 65% of the time in flight that S-76s spend. It is also a favorite of VIP-transport as well, with VIP transport making up 20% of the time.
The S-76 is certainly a handsome helicopter, with the ability to impress the passengers not only with its performance but also with its dashing looks as well. Looking over to more technical things, the S-76 has a four-bladed fully articulated main rotor and a four-bladed anti-torque rotor on the tailboom. The powerful dual engines are directly above the passenger’s cabin as well. Initially, the engines of choice for the Sikorsky S-76 were Allisson 250-C30s.
It would not be wrong to say that the S-76 is one of the most significant helicopters ever produced. The records that it possesses are truly evidence of it being a machine that disrupted the entire helicopter aviation market like no other. Man has always had the fantasy of scaling the dimensions of the earth. This is why people dive into the depths of the earth or reach the peak of the biggest mountains in the entire world. Our surroundings nurture us and protect us. If the earth did not have the exact combination of conditions that it does, there would be no life on earth. The earth, being our supreme surrounding, has nurtured humankind for millennia. However, everything must be overcome, and our surroundings are no exception either. This is why the S-76 will be remembered in the annals of history for years to come. It was the first aircraft to go through the entire length of the world in an east-to-west direction. The pilot of this truly staggering and noble endeavor was Dick Smith, an adventurer known for his nerves of steel.
In fact, he still holds a vast number of records around the world of aviation. What’s even more interesting is the fact that he is also an entrepreneur as well, with his business ventures being diverse, showing his ability to think in different paradigms without much issue.
By 2015, there were 1090 units of the S-76 built. It should also be noted that the Sikorsky S-76 had several variants during the many years that it was in production and this final number is the sum total of all the sales of helicopters that were endowed with the S-76 name.
The helicopter is able to seat 13 passengers at once, which is quite impressive. The length of the aircraft is over 52 feet, and the width stands at about 10 feet. The height of the aircraft is about 14.5 feet as well. The empty weight of the aircraft stands at just over 7000 pounds. In terms of the fuel capacity, the aircraft is able to store 1065 liters in its main tanks and the auxiliary tanks are able to store about 386 liters of fuel.
Moving on toward the performance figures of S-76, we see a flurry of numbers that are simply more impressive than the next. The maximum speed of the aircraft is about 287 km/h or 178 mph. These are numbers that have been recorded at the standard atmospheric conditions at sea level. The cruise speed is exactly equivalent to the maximum speed as well. On top of that, the range is about 411 nautical miles, a truly staggering number. What is the showstopper in my opinion is the service ceiling of the helicopter, standing at 13,800 feet.
The helicopter also has a fully coupled autopilot that is four-axis. Considering that a
Throughout its long production run, there were many Civil, Military, and Experimental helicopters being developed under the S-76 umbrella. In terms of the Civil helicopters, the models are S-76A, S-76A Utility, S-76A+, S-76A++, S76 Mk II, S-76B, S-76C, S-76C+, S-76C++, and S-76D. The military models are AUH-76 and H-76 Eagle. Lastly, the experimental models are S-75 and S-76 SHADOW.
This is the story of the Sikorsky S-76, a helicopter that might not be as easily recognizable to the average human being but has still played a big role in shaping the world of helicopters for years to come. Everything from the R-4 to the S-76 was able to improve upon what came before it and influence greatly what was to come after. It seems to be in the blood of the company Sikorsky to break walls and surmount mountains even when the probabilities were stacked against them. Igor Sikorsky would meet his end in 1972 at the ripe old age of 83. A man born in the old world that was not yet plagued by World Wars, Sikorsky was a truly seminal figure in the history of aviation in ways that are hard to even conceptualize. In the larger scheme narrative of Igor Sikorsky, the S-76 was just another rousing success.