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Sikorsky’s S-76 Helicopter Has Transported Huge Spenders for A long time, and It’s Not Useless But

Sikorsky’s S-76 Helicopter Has Transported Huge Spenders for A long time, and It’s Not Useless But

First delivered in 1977, Sikorsky’s S-76 remains the grande dame of corporate helicopters. Accounting for head-of-state transportation in 10 countries, and with more than 178 other examples flown by major business enterprises and VIPs, the model was the first Sikorsky copter created for the civilian market and shares mechanical DNA with its military-purposed sibling, the UH-60 Black Hawk. Since 1998, Britain’s Royal family has used three successive maroon-colored versions.

Offering an alternative to regional business jets, the twin-turbine S-76 has a maximum range of 411 nautical miles (with no reserve) and a top speed of 178 mph. Plus, as it was designed in part to fly personnel to offshore oil rigs, it provides safe operation in a wide range of weather conditions. 

In 1974, as it was first being conceived, the S-76 concept called for a rethink of how a helicopter should function. The design called for luxury automotive qualities and a quiet cabin. “It was the first helicopter with ‘slam-shut’ doors sounding like a limousine,” says Eli Flint, president of Flexjet‘s Vertical Lift division, who adds that “the aerodynamic shape appeals to people who love cars.” The company’s 15-chopper fleet is largely composed of the versatile Sikorsky. Each features an eight-passenger cabin with leather seating, sizable windows, and sound-dampening technology. One interior is even inspired by Flexjet chairman Kenn Ricci’s Bentley Bacalar. “The interior provides a great base to work from,” says Flint. “The pedigree is unparalleled.”

Sikorsky S-76D Executive Transport helicopter

Mike Reyno/Courtesy of Sikorsky

The S-76 evolved through six updates over more than four decades before Sikorsky announced, in 2022, that it would cease production, though the company maintains service infrastructure and a supply of spare parts. (Rumors that the model might be built outside the U.S. continue to circulate.)

Flexjet’s main US competitor, HeliFlite, also counts the S-76 as the flagship for its high-net-worth clientele. HeliFlite CEO Kurt Carlson praises the robust Sikorsky’s longevity and reliability. Besides its headquarters in the New York metropolitan area, HeliFlite also has a base in South Florida that services that area as well as the Bahamas and Caribbean. Carlson notes the Sikorsky fleet can now access remote islands that are typically reached by airplanes.

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Despite the phaseout of new S-76s, Flint believes the S-76 is a viable platform for another decade. “It’s still one of the most compelling corporate helicopters out there,” he says. 

Source: Robb Report

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