Black Hawk deal opens door to takeover of PZL Mielec

Sikorsky is considering buying Polish aircraft manufacturer PZL Mielec as part of a deal to assemble UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for international customers.

The US manufacturer has signed a memorandum of understanding to negotiate a “strategic investment” in state-owned PZL Mielec, under which it will begin producing components in 2008 and start assembling Black Hawks in 2010.

Sikorsky plans “a strategic partnership at some level, with the ultimate goal of making a full acquisition”, says president Jeff Pino. The Polish government is prepared to sell up to 100% of PZL Mielec depending on how much work and technology Sikorsky agrees to transfer, says Pawel Brzezicki, head of the Industrial Development Agency, which owns the company. A deal is expected to be finalised by year-end.

With US production transitioning to the modernised UH-60M, Sikorsky introduced the International Black Hawk earlier this year. Combining the UH-60M’s cabin, the dynamic system from the UH-60L and a glass cockpit, the variant is intended to be assembled outside the USA, using a global supply chain. Although Sikorsky says the PZL deal is not linked to industrial offsets, the Warsaw government has plans to buy about 150 helicopters for military, medical and VIP transport roles.

Sikorsky says it looked globally before selecting PZL Mielec to assemble the International Black Hawk. The US manufacturer’s parent company, United Technologies, is already the largest foreign investor in the Polish aviation industry – engine subsidiary Pratt & Whitney Canada employs almost 6,000 people at manufacturing plants in Kalisz and Rzezsów, having purchased an 85% stake in WSK PZL Rzezsow in 2002 for $70 million.

PZL Mielec produces the M28 Skytruck light transport, as well as the M18 Dromader agricultural aircraft and M26 Iskierka trainer, but sales have declined since the end of the Cold War, forcing its government owner to seek foreign investment.

Another aircraft factory, PZL Okecie, was sold to EADS in 2001 as part of a deal to sell C-295 transports to Poland, while helicopter manufacturer PZL Swidnik now manufactures airframes for AgustaWestland.

Source: Flight International