Sikorsky will launch a two-month tour this March for its PZL Mielec M28, taking the twin turboprop aircraft across seven Caribbean and Latin American countries to demonstrate its short take-off and landing capabilities.
Sikorsky’s aggressive campaign will begin this March and will cover Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago. It’s not an inexpensive feat to take an aircraft on the road, but Sikorsky decided to launch the tour following growing interest from both commercial and military customers in Latin America over the last three years, according to Adam Schierholz, vice president of Sikorsky’s Latin American business development. Following the spring tour, Sikorsky plans to take the aircraft through India.
The demo tour will focus on the aircraft’s short take-off and landing capabilities, but the M28 will also show off its menu of options for search and rescue and casualty evacuation. The combination configuration M28 on display throughout the Latin America tour will include airliner seats in the front, three paratrooper seats and two litters in the rear, as well as a cargo hoist in the aircraft’s rear to drop cargo. The 19-passenger Skytruck can be configured for VIP flights, but its clamshell rear door also opens the aircraft up to medical evacuation, search and rescue, parachute and cargo missions.
As Sikorsky looks at the rugged and challenging landscape across Latin America and the Caribbean, the M28 Skytruck could levy a significant advantage in the market with its two Pratt & Whitney PT6A-65B engines. That extra power allows the Skytruck to land on a 250 meter strip fully loaded, says Szymon Wlodarski, business development manager at PZL Mielec in Poland. The M28’s short-takeoff capability proved itself in Nepal, flying at a slow 65kt (120km/h) while it dropped tents and blankets following the 2015 earthquake, he adds.
Customers flying over Brazil’s mountainous regions or vast Amazon may be interested in the auxiliary support that the twin-engine provides, Wlodarski says.
“If you fly over the Amazon, you want to make sure you have a backup,” he says. “It will be slower without two engines, but we’ll get there safely.”
While the acquisition process in Latin American countries does not follow the formal request for proposal course practiced in the US, competitions for military aircraft are heating up in Brazil and Argentina, according to Schierholz. Brazil flies single-engine Cessna Caravans as cargo aircraft over the Amazon, but the air force is outsourcing some of those movements to commercial operators, Wlodarski says.
Brazil has an active proposal and part of the tour will perform missions to check off requirements, says Kate Grammer, Sikorsky’s business acquisition manager for Brazil and the Caribbean. Sikorsky will perform cargo and parachute drops across the Amazon and a formalised proposal will follow that activity, she adds.