Erickson Air-Crane (Booth No. 2634), the holder of the S-64 Air-Crane’s type and production certificates, announced yesterday that it will be rebranding itself and expanding its OEM capabilities in the hopes of producing a new heavy-lift version of the iconic helicopter within two to three years.
“The timing is right for the next generation S-64,” said Erickson president and CEO Udo Rieder, adding that the state of the economy works in the company’s favor. “Who in this environment would possibly invest in developing a new heavy-lift aircraft? I don’t know of anyone who would invest heavily in a completely new development program that could potentially run $50 million to $75 million per aircraft.”
Besides holding the S-64 type certificate and production certificate, Erickson has the ability to accommodate new manufacture and parts assembly certified to FAA Part 21 and Part 29 regulations. However, Rieder said the work the company has completed so far has been “remanufacturing” as opposed to new production. “The rebuild process is considerably more complicated than a new-build process. We are ready to move into the new production process, and we think we can do that very competitively. I think we have a very good value, especially in the time that we’re in now, to be very attractive to governments around the world.”
Erickson is relying on surveys and feedback from its customers to design the new helicopter. That process will start “immediately,” Rieder said.
The potential launch of a new heavy-lift aircraft has also prompted the company to consider a name change, possibly something with “aero” or “aerospace” in it to reflect the company’s expanding focus. “It’s not finalized, but highly likely,” he said.
In addition to the launch of a new product, Erickson also hopes to modernize the existing S-64 with features that customers “are wanting and willing to pay for,” Rieder said. The features include composite blades, new tail rotor blades, a modernized cockpit and the addition of a health monitoring system.
The company has also conceptualized a passenger pod that would fit between the cockpit and the water tank. Rieder said it’s a fairly simple design but the company has no plans to develop it unless customers request such a device.
Lastly, the company will be moving its headquarters to Portland, Ore., from its current location in Central Point, Ore. The move is part of the company’s new growth and business development strategy. Erickson also announced the addition of several new executives, including H.E. McClaren, vice president of aerial services; Gary Eakins, vice president and general counsel; Charles Ryan, vice president and CFO; and Scott Fitzgerald, vice president of global sales.