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In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis- we provide information on a selection of New and Pre-Owned medium-twin helicopters in the $7-12 million price range for the purpose of valuing the Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopter.

We’ll consider our usual productivity parameters - payload/range- speed and cabin size - and cover current market values. The field in this study includes the Eurocopter EC 155B1- Bell 412EP- Eurocopter AS 365N3 Dauphin- and Eurocopter EC 145.

BRIEF HISTORY
The S-76 is powered by two turbo-shafts which combine to drive the main and tail rotors- each with four blades. It has a retractable landing gear and the capacity to carry 12 passengers and a crew of two pilots. The S-76C++ is the seventh model built in the Sikorsky S-76 product line (see Table A).

At 207 helicopters manufactured in six years- the S-76C++ fleet rivals the total number of S-76A models (210) that were built over a 16 year period. The S-76C++ replaced the S-76C+ in December 2005 and features more powerful FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control)-equipped Turbomeca Arriel 2S2 engines- a new inlet barrier filtration system and a new gearbox. The S-76C+ can be upgraded to an S-76C++ with a retrofit that includes new Turbomeca Arriel 2S2 engines.

The latest model- the S-76D is a progressive improvement on the S-76C++ and features more powerful dual FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control)-equipped Pratt & Whitney Canada 210S engines- with a Thales TopDeck avionics suite and enhanced- all-composite flaw-tolerant rotor blades.

PAYLOAD AND RANGE
As we mentioned in past articles- a potential operator should focus on payload capability as a key factor. The data contained in Table B is published in the B&CA May 2010 issue- but is also sourced from Conklin & de Decker- and it shows the S-76C++ ‘Available payload with Maximum Fuel’ at 1-688 pounds has the second highest payload capability in this field of study behind the Bell 412EP at 1-814 pounds.

CABIN VOLUME
As sourced from Conklin & de Decker and depicted in Chart A- the cabin volume of the S-76C++- at 204 cubic feet- is smaller compared to the EC 155B1 helicopter (235 cubic feet) and the Bell 412EP (220 cubic feet). The Eurocopter AS 365N3 (176 cubic feet) and EC 145 (185 cubic feet) are smaller in volume.

POWERPLANT DETAILS
As mentioned previously- the S-76C++ is powered by two Turbomeca Arriel 2S2 engines each offering a transmission rating of 1-027 SHD. Transmission rating is a limiting factor in the total rated and usable engine power output.

Using data published in the May 2010 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2010 B&CA Operations Planning Guide we will compare our helicopters. The nationwide average Jet-A fuel cost used from the August 2010 edition was $4.90 per gallon at press time- so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.

TOTAL VARIABLE COST COMPARISONS
The ‘Total Variable Cost’- illustrated in Chart B- is defined as the cost of Fuel Expense- Maintenance Labor Expense- Scheduled Parts Expense- and Miscellaneous trip expense. The total variable cost for the S-76C++ at $1-605 has a 3.8% lower variable cost per hour compared to the Bell 412EP at $1-668. However- the S-76C++ has a higher variable cost compared to the remaining three Eurocopter models in the field.

PRODUCTIVITY COMPARISONS
The points in Chart C center on the same group of helicopters. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the B&CA 2010 Purchase Planning Handbook. The productivity index requires further discussion in that the factors used can be somewhat arbitrary. Productivity as defined here is the multiple of three factors:

1. Range with full payload and available fuel;
2. The long range cruise speed flown to achieve that range;
3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities.

The result is a very large number so for the purpose of charting- each result is divided by one billion. The examples plotted are confined to the helicopters in this study. A computed curve fit on this plot would not be very tight- but when all turbine helicopters are considered the “r” squared factor would equal a number above 0.9. Others may choose different parameters- but serious helicopter buyers are usually impressed with Price- Range- Speed and Cabin Size.

After consideration of the Price- Range- Speed and Cabin Size- we can conclude that the S-76C++ helicopter- as shown in the productivity index Chart C- is highly productive compared to the other helicopters shown.

Also- shown on the chart is the S-76B- illustrating the improvement in the SRV index for the S-76C++ helicopter. The average speed- cabin volume- and maximum payload values from Conklin and de Decker and B&CA magazine are shown in Table C for all the helicopters in this field of comparison. Also shown is the average new B&CA retail price for each model with the latest model (2010) produced.

The last two columns show the number of aircraft in-operation and percentage ‘For Sale’ as reported by JETNET. As of the end of January 2011- the S-76C++ percentage For Sale is the lowest of all the helicopters listed at just 1% of the fleet. Note- too from Table C that the S-76C++ leads the field in long range cruise speed.

BUSINESS TYPE
Table D shows the usage by business-type of the S-76C++ helicopter- as outlined by JETNET. The “Top 3” business-types account for 90.6% of the most common usage of the S-76C++. Charter companies are the top usage type of the S-76C++ helicopter and account for more than 50% of the active fleet with over 100 helicopters.

LOCATION
Chart D shows the location by continent of the S-76C++ helicopter fleet. North America has the majority with 32% followed by Asia at 28%- and the continents of South America and Europe at 20% and 12% are third and fourth respectively.

SUMMARY
Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the attributes that helicopter operators value. However- there are often other qualities such as service and support that factor into a buying decision too- and are beyond the scope of this article.

The Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopter fares well against its competition - so those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison of value. Our expectations are that the Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopter will continue to do very well in the pre-owned market.

For more information: Michael Chase is president of Chase & Associates- and can be contacted at 1628 Snowmass Place- Lewisville- TX 75077; Tel: 214-226-9882; Web:
www.mdchase.com


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