North American helicopter owners searching for a little touch of Italy in their cabin need look no farther than Philadelphia. Servizi Elicotteristici Italiani–better known as SEI, and the preferred interiors shop of AgustaWestland–opened a new facility at Philadelphia Northeast Airport last November and is already scoping out North American market territory.
According to SEI chairman and CEO Francesco Sirgiovanni, SEI of America has delivered three finished Agustas from the new 12,000-sq-ft facility and has four more in the works.
The company has spent $500,000 so far in the move to the U.S. and expects to put another $750,000 into the project as part of the initial investment.
SEI parent company Mecaer Group of Borgomanero, Italy, with revenues in 2007 exceeding $120 million, and Valter Pasqua, chairman of Mecaer Group’s executive committee, made it clear the company has no qualms about backing SEI’s play.
“We are the little box,” said Sirgiovanni of SEI. “The big box in Italy [Mecaer] has both the infrastructure and the resources we need.” Under the Mecaer umbrella, various subsidiaries are engaged in work on everything from landing gear and fixed-wing flight control systems to maintenance and overhaul and FBO services.
SEI of America may be drawing on those resources sooner than expected. Ralph Kunz, president of SEI of America, said refurbishment of the hangar has been finished, “and there is more room available in an adjacent hangar.”
For the time being, he explained, major interior components such as composite interior shells will be done at SEI’s main production factory in Monteprandone and shipped to the U.S. for installation. Looking forward, he added, the U.S. outpost is forming alliances and looking for vendors on this side of the Atlantic. Sirgiovanni said SEI hopes to reveal a major alliance before the close of Heli-Expo 2008.
The first work at SEI of America–light maintenance and VIP cabin completion–is being done under the Agusta production certification, pending receipt of Part 145 repair station approval from the FAA. Kunz said the Philadelphia shop will also be doing emergency medical services, law enforcement and utility mission completion and refurbishment work.
With helicopter maintenance as well as completion and refurbishment as a springboard, added Sirgiovanni, SEI of America expects to move into the completion and refurbishment market for aircraft ranging from ultralights to medium-size business jets.
Looking through a book of photography illustrating the early months following the opening of the Philadelphia facility, Sirgiovanni smiled broadly at an image of the first aircraft to occupy the hangar–former President George H.W. Bush’s Marine One Sea King helicopter. “They needed a hangar, and we had one,” said Sirgiovanni. “A nice beginning, yes?”