13 March 1977

The number 2 Sikorsky S-76 makes teh type's first flight, 13 March 1977. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)
The number 2 Sikorsky S-76 prototype, s/n 76002, makes the type’s first flight, 13 March 1977. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

13 March 1977: The protoype Sikorsky S-76A Spirit made its first flight at the company’s Development Flight Center, West Palm Beach, Florida (06FA). This was the number two aircraft, serial number 76002, registered N762SA. Sikorky’s chief pilot, John Dixson, and S-76 program test pilot Nicholas D. Lappos were in the cockpit.

Test pilot Nick Lappos is congratulated following teh first flight of the Sikorsky S-76, 13 March 1977. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Test pilot Nick Lappos is congratulated by His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan following the first flight of the Sikorsky S-76, 13 March 1977. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

The prototype was rolled out 11 January 1977.

The Sikorsky S-76 is a twin-engine medium helicopter designed to carry up to 12 passengers 400 nautical miles (460.3 statute miles, 740.8 kilometers) for the offshore oil industry. It is flown by two pilots and is certified for instrument flight. The helicopter can be configured to carry up to thirteen passengers.

The S-76 is used as a passenger transport, executive or VIP aircraft, and in law enforcement, search and rescue, or military service. It is also widely used as a medical transport helicopter.

Prototype Sikorsky S-76A rollout, 11 January 1977. (Sikorsky Historical Archives)

In 1979, Sikorsky proposed the new helicopter for consideration as the U.S. Coast Guard Short Range Recovery Helicopter, along with competitors Aérospatiale and Bell Helicopter. The S-76 was considered to be the most suitable of the three but the company made a business decision to withdraw before any contract was awarded. The Aérospatiale SA-365 Dauphin variant was finally selected and became the MH-65 Dolphin.

Air Logistics accepted the first Sikorsky S-76A production helicopter 27 February 1979. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
Air Logistics accepted the first Sikorsky S-76A production helicopter, 27 February 1979. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

The S-76A has an overall length of 52 feet, 6 inches (16.002 meters) with rotors turning, and overall height of 14 feet, 6 inches (4.420 meters). It had an empty weight of 7,132 pounds (3,235 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 10,500 pounds (4,763 kilograms).

The four-bladed, fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 44 feet, 0 inches (13.411 meters). The main rotor hub is constructed of forged aluminum and uses elastomeric bearings to allow for blade flapping and lead-lag. The blades are made of composite materials formed around a hollow titanium spar. The blade tips are swept to reduce the formation of blade tip vortices. Each blade is 19 feet, 11¾ inches long (6.090 meters). The main rotor turns counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) At 107% NR, the maximum speed with power on, the rotor turns 313 r.p.m.

A four-bladed tail rotor with a diameter of 8 feet, 0 inches (2.438 meters) is mounted on the left side of a pylon in a pusher configuration. The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)

A Turboméca-powered Sikorsky S-76C in flight over the City of New York. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

The S-76A was originally powered by two Allison 250-C30 turboshaft engines mounted side-by-side, behind the main transmission. The engines were rated at 557 shaft horsepower (maximum continuous power). 100% torque is 564 foot-pounds. Later production models have used Turboméca and Pratt & Whitney Canada engines.

The S-76A has a cruise speed and maximum speed (VNE) of 155 knots (178 miles per hour/287 kilometers per hour). (The helicopter’s cruise speed is the same as its maximum.) The service ceiling is 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The maximum altitude for takeoff and landing is 6,900 feet (2,103 meters).

Over a five-day period, 4–9 February 1982, Sikorsky test pilots Nicholas D. Lappos, William Frederick Kramer, Byron Graham, Jr., David R. Wright, and Thomas F. Doyle, Jr., set a series of twelve Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed, time-to-climb and sustained altitude world records while flying a Sikorsky S-76A helicopter, N5445J, at Palm Beach, Florida. These included an absolute world speed record for helicopters (186.69 knots/214.83 miles per hour/345,74 kilometers per hour). Nine of these records remain current.¹

The Sikorsky S-76 remains in production, with more than 1,100 helicopters built. There were 307 S-76A and S-76A+ variants produced, followed by the S-76B, S-76C, -C+ and -C++. The current production model is the S-76D.

Sikorsky S-76D N7621Y, c/n 761021. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

¹ See “This Day in Aviation” https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/4-february-1982/

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 thoughts on “13 March 1977

    1. I don’t know, but there was an involvement with Sikorsky providing S-76s and crews for the King of Jordan and his entourage while in teh United States. One of the helicopters crashed and the four Sikorsky crew members were killed. The cause was never determined, but sabotage was considered possible.

      1. Hi Bryan-
        Saw your post for Feb 2023 about the S-76. My dad flew for UTFlight during the 80s/90s/2000s and was working there when N5AZ crashed. He said afterwards, United Technologies refused to allow any of the pilots speak to NTSB investigators. Given the low amount of information available (aircraft destroyed, no FDR/CVR), they didn’t have much to go on and there was much speculation on what actually happened.

        His experience in that particular aircraft is that there were past issues with water leaking into the cockpit and affecting avionics/EFIS. Given the angle of the aircraft when it crashed, he and the other pilots theorize that they became spatially disoriented (much like N72EX/Kobe Bryant pilot) when EFIS cut out.

  1. Interesting that Sikorsky withdrew from the Coast Guard proposal before any commitment could be made, particularly if it was considered the “most suitable”. You would think the USCG would be a very lucrative contract. Or maybe not? Maybe they had too many bad experiences dealing with the government?

    1. The feeling at the time by both Sikorsky and Bell was that the competition was unfair. Bell Helicopter sued the Secretary of Transportation and the Commandant of the Coast Guard.

  2. Decades ago I read (my old brain cells didn’t retain the source) that Sikorsky and Learjet had a deal by which the S-76’s instrument panel resembled the one in the contemporary Learjet. The idea was the bizjet crew could be dual certified in the helicopter. Here, busy executives could be whisked across country in the Learjet, land at a suburban airport where the S-76 was parked, and the executives would complete their journey downtown with the Learjet crew flying the helo.

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