Boeing has agreed to support MD Helicopters' (MDHI) production of the MH-6 Little Bird as part of its bid for the US Army's Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) contest, thereby providing a lifeline to the financially troubled, Arizona-based manufacturer.

The agreement essentially underwrites MDHI and provides stability to Boeing's ARH bid. However, the agreement is still vital, with or without an ARH win, says MDHI chief executive Henk Schaeken, who adds that the deal "also allows us to restructure our dealings with Boeing and allows us to reduce our debt position".

The Boeing-funded improvements to the rotor blades, crew seats and configuration of the Little Bird could also "come back into our commercial products", Schaeken says. The initial ARH requirement calls for "at least" 368 aircraft. Boeing would be prime contractor on the "Mission Enhanced" MH-6M, with airframes assembled at MDHI's Mesa site and completed at the adjacent Boeing AH-64 Apache assembly site.

The deal relieves MDHI of outstanding debt to Boeing and is also expected to strengthen MDHI's renewed search for additional investors and restore customer confidence in the MDHI product line, says Schaeken. He adds that the current order backlog is around 25 aircraft of which approximately 12 are Explorers and the remainder single-engined MD500/600s.


Source: Flight International