Andrew Doyle/MUNICH

Sikorsky Aircraft has selected Aero Vodochody to take over S-76C+ airframe production, giving a major boost to the part Boeing-owned Czech aircraft manufacturer.


The $230 million deal covers the fabrication and subassembly by Aero of more than 100 airframes over seven years, with deliveries to Sikorsky due to run at 15 units a year from November. Industry sources say the company, based near Prague, beat bids from Aerospace Industries Development Corporation of Taiwan, Korea Aerospace Industries, Poland's PZL-Swidnik and Eurocopter.

Sikorsky says outsourcing S-76 airframe production from its Stratford, Connecticut, factory is in line with its strategy of reducing costs, improving competitiveness and focusing on core competencies.

The United Technologies unit will continue to produce S-76 dynamic systems such as gearboxes and rotors and will retain final assembly. Green aircraft will be delivered to Keystone Helicopters, for completion work.

Aero has signed Fischer Advanced Composite Components of Austria as a subcontractor on the S-76 airframe.

The sources say that Boeing, which owns around a third of Aero, was instrumental in securing the Sikorsky deal. The US giant had been criticised by Czech politicians in recent months for its failure to bring substantial extra work into the company.

Boeing has helped Aero to update its manufacturing processes since privatisation, making it a more attractive target for Western firms seeking low-cost subcontractors. It already makes wing flaps and other components for some Boeing commercial airliners, gun bay door assemblies for the F/A-18 fighter and empennages for the Bombardier Dash 8 regional turboprop.

Aero is seeking additional work from Airbus Industrie and hopes to win subcontract work on the A3XX programme. The company is also understood to be pursuing a major parts fabrication deal with Bell Helicopter. The sources say that BAE Systems will also transfer some of its Boeing subcontract work to Aero.

• Bombardier has joined the Sikorsky team planning to offer the S-92 for the Canadian Forces Maritime Helicopter Programme to replace its Sikorsky Sea King shipborne helicopters by 2005.

If the S-92 is selected, Bombardier Aerospace's Mirabel-based Defence Services division will complete the helicopters, including installation and check-out of the Lockheed Martin Canada-supplied mission system.

The Canadian company will also be responsible for support and fleet management.

Sikorsky leads one of three teams expected to bid for the MHP contract. GKN Westland and Agusta have teamed with mission system supplier Boeing to offer a version of the EH101 Cormorant already selected for the Canadian Forces' search-and-rescue requirement. Eurocopter plans to offer the Cougar, but has yet to name a team.

Source: Flight International