Sikorsky is confident that its S-76 and S-92 aircraft will continue to be in high demand in South America in the years ahead. The OEM has a solid presence in the region, with over 350 rotorcraft still flying there. In Brazil alone there are 27 S-92s and over the years more than 100 S-76 model aircraft have been sold there, the majority of which fly for offshore oil transport.
Regional executive Adam Schierholz has been with Sikorsky for almost 30 years: “For the last 15 or 20 years I’ve been in Latin America. Whereas somewhere like the North Sea you are dealing with the cold and the harshness of the waters there, this is not so much the case in Brazil. Before everything started with COVID and before the downturn in the economies of Latin America around 2010-2013, Brazil was known as ‘the next North Sea’ and was quickly moving towards deep water exploration, and that’s why we have 27 S-92s employed down there now.
“I think outside of the North Sea that is the largest concentration of S-92s operating offshore oil transport in the world, because of its ability as a robust and reliable heavy transport vehicle. It can take 19 passengers 400 miles, and it has greater than 95 per cent reliability around the world, which is unheard of in the commercial market. Customers rely on that aircraft; it gets up and goes to work every day and if need be can carry a heavy load of passengers and cargo out to those rigs.”
Mexico, Guyana, Peru and Colombia were starting to emerge as new markets for Sikorsky. “Mexico and Guyana were in the forefront of where increased future oil exploration was about to turn hot. As a result of that, two S-92s were employed on the Mexican side of the Gulf of Mexico with Mexican offshore oil transport companies. I think the first one got there in the August of 2018, and now there are two. There were plans to have more, before everything took a downturn due to COVID-19 and the declining price of oil.
“Guyana is a neighbour to Trinidad, and we have a relationship there that goes back 30-odd years with NHSL (National Helicopter Services Limited) of Trinidad. It has been flying the S-76 since the 1980s. It has a fleet of nine aircraft, including four S-76Ds, and it is very pleased with them. We are very optimistic that it, and perhaps others, will expand their operations into Guyana, which is sitting on a large discovery of oil reserves. We expect there to be a robust S-76 and 92 market there in the future.
“Given the proven reliability of the S-76 and S-92, I believe those aircraft will be in demand when the market does turn around because the S-76 also has greater than 95 per cent reliability around the world. The S-92 is seen as the workhorse for the global oil industry, so when things do turn, we have high confidence that those aircraft will be increasingly employed. We’ve actually not seen much of a dip in flight hours, despite oil prices going down. We are not seeing a corresponding dip, because these aircraft are ones that operators turn to when they absolutely have to get out to the rigs.
We have head of state operations that utilise our aircraft in this part of the world. The Colombian air force uses a specially configured Blackhawk as part of its presidential transport and the Argentinian president always flies in a Sikorsky helicopter.”