On March 13 Aero Vodochody engineers finished work on their 100th Sikorsky S-76C helicopter fuselage. The following day, the in-house Sikorsky representative signed off on the Czech Republic engineering house’s efforts, and airframe number 624, shrink-wrapped inside a waterproof membrane, was dispatched from Odolena Voda, a northern suburb of capital Prague.
The fuselage traveled by truck to the nearest suitable port at Bremerhaven, Germany. From there it sailed in a container ship to New York City and onward to Philadelphia, to the Sikorsky completion center at nearby Keystone Helicopters. The whole process took about a month. At Keystone it was fitted with minor modifications such as a sliding door and rescue hoist, and then freighted to the OEM’s headquarters at Stratford, Connecticut, to be equipped with its power train and final interior. Now its finishing touches are being applied before it is delivered to its offshore customer in a few weeks.
Sikorsky program manager Eric Hansen told Aviation International News that Aero Vodochody (Hall 3 Stand D17) fabricates fuselages for the entire S-76 product line, a contract that has been in place since the start of 2002. “They do an exemplary job, in terms of both cost and schedule performance,” he said. “Normally, an airframe would travel to Keystone as its final destination before delivery, but since the modifications in this case were only minor, we decided to install the power train last.”
Aerostructures vice president Monika Vajnerova said the Sikorsky contract, which comprises nearly 90 percent of the Czech company’s revenues, has proved a spectacular success. “The volume of the Sikorsky program production rises by tens of percent year-on-year, which proves the quality of the product itself as well as the quality of our work and ability to meet delivery schedules,” she explained. “We have recently been negotiating significant contracts with new potential partners. Aero [Vodochody] has a strategic goal to win a volume program comparable [to that] with Sikorsky within three years.”
The company derives the remaining 10 percent of its revenues from work on gun-bay door assemblies for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for Boeing, subassemblies and components for Airbus A320s and A340s, and fixed leading-edge assembly kits for the Boeing 767.
The four-year partnership has played an invaluable part for Sikorsky (Hall 4 Stand F13) in revitalizing the S-76’s fortunes. “We are projecting just under 40 deliveries for this year, following about 30 made during 2005. As we were making only single-digit deliveries at the turn of the millennium, this line has really been given a new lease of life,” concluded Hansen.