Manufacturer emphasises 'buy American' theme for its own bid, but fails to point out some VH-92 figures are projections
Sikorsky has unleashed a new marketing blitz in the late stages of the VXX US presidential helicopter competition, supplementing its "buy American" theme with a searing - and sometimes inconsistent - technical critique of the rival Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland/ Bell Helicopter US101. Sikorsky VXX programme manager Nick Lappos contends the VH-92 is designed to higher standards for crashworthiness, turbine burst, bird strike and flaw tolerance, can fly faster and lift more and will cost less than the current EH101.
Lappos fails to mention that the US101 is being fitted with more-powerful General Electric engines, or that the S-92's safety and cost benefits are based on projections and not operational history. Lappos also is taking aim at the US101's most obvious advantage in an executive helicopter competition - size. Although Lockheed Martin calculates the US101's cabin is at least one-third larger than that of the VH-92, Lappos now says the difference is 10% at most. To make this point, he cites the VH-92's internal volume as 30.6m3 (1,079ft3). Early this year, however, Sikorsky claimed that a 1.44m (4.75ft) extension to the cabin length had increased total internal volume to 26.1m3 (Fight International, 16-22 March), and no further cabin growth has since been disclosed.
Lappos attributes Sikorsky's new marketing offensive to a concern that the VH-92 could win the US Navy's VXX competition, but lose the marketing war. Sikorsky wants to ensure that its "all-American" marketing theme is not viewed as an admission that it makes an inferior product. That said, Sikorsky also remains vocal about its security and political concerns for a presidential helicopter design with an Italian-British heritage.
Referring to the Italian roots of AgustaWestland, for example, Lappos asks: "What is a socialist country and a socialist company going to teach us about competition?" Lockheed Martin says in response that the US Navy has publicly verified that both contenders meet the technical and security thresholds required to compete for the VXX contract.
STEPHEN TRIMBLE / STRATFORD
Source: Flight International