Sikorsky buys Keystone, adds aftermarket services

 - October 30, 2006, 8:08 AM

Last month, Sikorsky Aircraft announced an agreement to acquire privately owned Keystone Ranger Holdings for an unspecified sum. Previously backed by investors that included Meridian Venture Partners, Keystone specializes in engineering, completion and technical support for commercial helicopters, and aeromedical flight operations. Closing was expected by year-end, subject to government approval, as well as certain other conditions. Keystone is expected to continue to operate under the Keystone name as a wholly owned subsidiary of Sikorsky.

Sikorsky president Steve Finger told AIN, “Sikorsky’s commitment to the commercial helicopter side and an increase in production at our primary facility in Stratford made this a good move. We already had a relationship with Keystone involving highly customized commercial aircraft serving a broad portfolio of customers. [Keystone is expected to complete two dozen S-76s this year–approximately $30 million in business.] This acquisition adds internal capability to meet increasing need, and Keystone’s excellent relationship with Agusta, Bell, Eurocopter, MD Helicopter, Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney and Turbomeca provides an entrée into aircraft and aftermarket services that is increasingly attractive to Sikorsky.”

As part of the transaction, Sikorsky will also acquire Keystone subsidiary Composite Technology (CTI), headquartered in Grand Prairie, Texas, with substantial rotor blade and composite structures overhaul capability at its branches in Canada, Brazil, the UK and Singapore.

Keystone’s flight services division operates a fleet of air medical transport helicopters at hospital base sites throughout the eastern U.S. Asked what plans his company had for the flight division, Sikorsky senior v-p for corporate strategy, marketing and commercial programs Jeff Pino said, “We have to evaluate that. As you know, Sikorsky has a flight division.” Sikorsky management will determine whether to merge the two or follow another strategy.

David Ford, president of Keystone Helicopter, added, “This partnership will allow Sikorsky to concentrate on increased demand for aircraft production while securing an even larger flow of completion services and aftermarket support opportunities for Keystone. It also allows Sikorsky to participate more broadly in the rapidly expanding demand for aftermarket, engineering and support services.”

Keystone Helicopter is one of the largest and oldest helicopter services companies in the U.S. Founded in 1953 by Peter Wright, a former Flying Tiger fighter pilot, the firm operates a technical services depot and completion center near Philadelphia. It also operates a large fleet of turbine helicopters in numerous locations across several eastern states, primarily in the aeromedical mission.