S-70M Black Hawks Now Certified for Civil Use by FAA

S-70M Black Hawk
S-70M Black Hawk

Sikorsky is bucking the concept of civil helicopters being offered for the military role, by creating a new type designation for the ever popular Black Hawk to be bought and operated by commercial companies.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has completed its certification of the S-70M Black Hawk helicopter and provided Sikorsky with a Restricted Category Special Airworthiness Certificate together with a dedicated pilot type rating. This will now allow commercial operators in the United States to purchase new Black Hawk aircraft direct from the factory.

“With type certification, new production S-70M Black Hawk helicopters in the latest configuration are available to the US commercial/civil market for the first time,” said Jason Lambert, vice president of Sikorsky Global Commercial & Military Systems. “Internationally, where the FAA restricted category is not widely accepted, we can now discuss with other civil aviation authorities the potential of validating the aircraft for challenging civil operations in their countries’ airspace.”

The S-70M is an upgraded version of the S-70i and will be built by PZL Mielec in Poland which, like Sikorsky, is owned by Lockheed Martin. The S-70 features a digital cockpit, GE 701D engines and wide chord rotor blades..

Sikorsky received a type certificate for the S-70M aircraft from the FAA in February 2019, and produced the first-of-type aircraft a year later. During 2020-21, Sikorsky proved the aircraft conformed to the type design, and assisted the FAA in establishing the new type rating.

The FAA certified the S-70M aircraft under Part 21 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations in the Restricted Category, basing its certification on the US Army UH-60M Black Hawk. Although capable of several special purpose operations in the Restricted Category, Sikorsky requested approval for three: agricultural operations; external cargo, which allows usage of the aircraft’s 9,000lb (4,082kg) external lift cargo hook; and forest and wildlife conservation operations, including the dispensing of liquids on wildfires.

The first customer has been announced as San Diego Gas & Electric with the rotorcraft destined for aerial firefighting and will be modified to a Firehawk allowing it to deploy with a 3,785-litre (1,000-gallon) external tank. The S-70M was delivered to the company on 18 November.

by Andrew Drwiega