The Pirouetting S-97 Raider Makes Your Helicopter Look Lazy

EVEN AT SEVEN in the morning, the south Florida heat and humidity is stifling. It steams up eyeglasses and feels like an iron on your skin. An alligator lurks in a stagnant pond near the runway—perhaps a spy sent by Bell, Sikorsky’s chief competitor for the contract to build the Defense Depart­ment’s next generation of vertical-lift aircraft.

But any resentment about Sikorsky’s decision to test its radical new S-97 Raider prototype at its facility in West Palm Beach vanishes as the helicopter’s 2,600-horsepower turbine engine spools and the dual, counterrotating rotors above the fuselage start spinning, out-blowing any ocean breeze.