S-70i producer PZL Mielec is looking at Poland’s rotorcraft requirements to potentially spur further sales of the type in the region.

Warsaw launched negotiations in late February linked to a planned eight-aircraft deal to support special forces operations, for which the S-70i is competing with the Leonardo Helicopters AgustaWestland AW149 and Airbus Helicopters H225M. It is expected to issue a further request linked to a larger acquisition of utility helicopters, and later will advance a Kruk programme requirement to replace its assault-roled Mil Mi-24s.

James Katzen, director of sales at the Sikorksy subsidiary, says PZL Mielec is eyeing potential future requirements from nations including Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, plus Romania, with the S-70i.

S-70i - Sikorsky


“You see a lot of countries looking to Poland to perhaps leverage off its decision,” Katzen says. “Maybe countries could come together and get a common type of platform and leverage on acquisition and MRO costs,” he suggests, noting that several nations are expected to make fleet modernisation decisions within the next three to five years.

PZL Mielec has completed 40 S-70is since the model’s launch in 2010, with 34 so far handed over to customers. Its first of six examples for Chile is scheduled to undergo initial inspection and acceptance by the nation’s air force in late March, with the rotorcraft to then receive modifications including additional auxiliary fuel tanks, a forward-looking infrared sensor, de-icing equipment and a rotor brake. Deliveries are due from early 2018.

Two of the five S-70is currently on the final assembly line in Mielec are awaiting customers: a strategy Mike Skaggs, chief test pilot at the facility, says is key to the variant’s success. “Up to a year ago we were holding six aircraft without customers, in anticipation of orders,” he says, adding: “If you wait until you have the signed contract before you start building, it’s too late. We get a lot of contracts on the basis that we can deliver quickly.”

Skaggs says the company’s goal is to deliver an aircraft within 12 months of receiving a commitment, depending on the configuration selected by a customer. It currently has the capacity to deliver 25-26 S-70is per year, says production director Maciej Szlek.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows S-70i operators include the Royal Brunei Air Force and Colombian army, plus police forces in Mexico and Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry. Nine are recorded as being flown by undisclosed operators, believed to include the United Arab Emirates.

Katzen says Ankara’s development of an exportable T-70 derivative of the Black Hawk is not viewed as a competitive threat to PZL Mielec, as Turkish Aerospace Industries is expected to gain access to new markets for the rotorcraft, potentially to include Afghanistan, Pakistan and nations in North Africa. Initial aircraft for the Turkish programme will be produced in Mielec.

Source: FlightGlobal.com