American Eurocopter points to a highly customized AStar AS350B3 as a prime example of the capabilities of its Grand Prairie, Texas completion center. This AStar was assembled at American Eurocopter’s Columbus, Miss. plant before being flown to Grand Prairie. There it was outfitted with an NVG cockpit, pop-out floats, space pods and the capabilities for a 3,000-pound cargo sling or Bambi bucket before being delivered to Paradigm Helicopters in Houston.
More than one-third of the 110 Eurocopters sold in the U.S. passed through the Grand Prairie completion center last year, according to Ross McMichael, American Eurocopter manager of new helicopter completions. Most of them were AStars and were outfitted with mission-specific avionics, NVG compatibility and special equipment including the Star Sapphire forward-looking infrared high-definition camera and video system.
Eurocopter Grand Prairie also offers customers other modifications including quick-change VIP/executive interiors. This includes a rear bench for the AStar that quickly changes from four-place utility seating to a three-place executive configuration thanks to fold-down, hidden armrests.
Installing the all-composite space pods on the Paradigm AStar doubled its baggage capacity by enlarging each side of the baggage compartment. McMichael said the pods took three days to install and that they and the original baggage compartment doors were painted to match, enabling the operator to quickly remove or replace them without compromising the helicopter’s aesthetics. The center’s paint shop has long been a source of pride, McMichael said. “It’s one of the things we get the most compliments on from our customers because of our level of detail. We disassemble each individual panel so that everything is removable without destroying the paint. We paint the insides of doors. And we have 3-D paint renderings we can show our customers before they make their selections.”
Fifty people work at the Grand Prairie completion center, which is currently adding
engineers and possibly more skilled craftsmen later this year depending on market conditions.
“We’re looking to grow,” said McMichael. “Based on the first month of this year, things are looking pretty positive. We’ve got some pretty big plans.”