American Eurocopter has received an FAA aircraft production certificate to manufacture its U.S. Army UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter and EC 145 commercial variant at the company’s plant in Columbus, Miss.
The first helicopter produced under the certificate was delivered to the Army on August 27.
This is Eurocopter’s second U.S. production certificate. In 2005 the manufacturer received FAA approval to build its AS 350 B2 and B3 in Columbus to fulfill contracts for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other customers. American Eurocopter president Marc Paganini called the award of the new certificate “another important step” in serving the U.S. market.
Under the Army contract, Eurocopter will produce 322 UH-72As at Columbus over the next 10 years. The total contract is valued at more than $2 billion. To fulfill the contract, Eurocopter plans to increase the size of its Columbus facility to 325,000 sq ft from 92,000 sq ft.
The Army began taking initial deliveries earlier this year. Before the award of the certificate the UH-72As were produced at Eurocopter’s Donauwörth, Germany plant, disassembled and shipped to Columbus as kits for reassembly.
American Eurocopter plans eventually to build the EC 145 civilian variant in Columbus for the U.S. market, an American Eurocopter spokesman told AIN. The EC 145 is popular with many U.S. medevac operators.
Currently, 97 are in service. The spokesman said the UH-72A production rate at Columbus would increase from the current two per month to three per month by February and four per month by next summer.