Marenco details production plans for SKYe single

 - July 27, 2011, 7:40 AM

Marenco Swiss Helicopter holds letters of intent for just a dozen copies of its SKYe SH09 light single helicopter but has already outlined plans to build 80 to 100 aircraft per year. The company, based in Niederurnen near Zurich, claims it has enough funding for development through certification, pegged for 2014. The first customer delivery is anticipated to follow the next year.

First flight is planned for next year, a schedule Mathias Senes, senior v-p for sales and strategy, concedes is “tight.” The company is currently building prototype number one, which will be “rather experimental,” Senes said. Part of the aerodynamic work, including wind-tunnel testing, is being done in South Africa, where the firm has five engineers.

Prototypes number two and three will be the ones used for certification purposes. Marenco’s management team is still deciding whether to pursue EASA or FAA certification first. “There are differences in methods and costs,” Senes noted. Regardless of the final decision, Marenco has started dialog with Swiss civil aviation authorities. Marenco’s finance sources cover development and certification costs–which Senes would reveal in no more detail than “dozens of million euros”.

The first year of production, 2015, should see 10 SH09s built, increasing to 30 the following year. In 2017, the output should be between 30 and 50. Production capacity could reach 80 to 100 aircraft per year beginning in 2018.

Marenco acknowledges that suppliers’ long lead times pose a challenge and he has endeavored to motivate them. “At the Paris Air Show, we visited suppliers and we were surprised by the long lead times they were suggesting,” Senes said. “We explain to them that we want to be partners,” Senes added. Marenco is competing with Eurocopter and AgustaWestland for components.

Although Honeywell has been announced as the provider of the engine–an HTS900 turboshaft in the 1,000-shp class–the door is not slammed shut on other engine manufacturers, Senes said. Marenco wants to find the best in terms of technical performance, customer support and partnership. “We do not want to be seen as only a buyer of small quantities; we also want to be part of the engine manufacturer’s vision,” Senes said.

Marenco has chosen Sagem to provide avionics initially, but buyers eventually will be able to specify a Garmin G1000 cockpit, for example. “While the Sagem equipment is suited to professional use, the Garmin cockpit may have more appeal to our pilot-owner customers,” Senes asserted.

The supplier of the carbon-fiber airframe is OCP, a company well known for its Formula One racing cars, Senes said.

Another unusual design feature is the five-blade main rotor. The number of blades, unusually high for this size of helicopter, will help reduce noise and vibration and improve maneuverability and pilot precision, Senes said.

The SH09 was unveiled at Heli-Expo last winter. Its list price is $3 million for delivery in 2015. Marenco believes its main competitors are the Eurocopter AS350B3 and EC130 as well as the AgustaWestland AW119 Ke.

The 5,500-pound-class SH09 will seat five to eight passengers. It will feature a shrouded tail rotor, a flat-floor cabin and clamshell doors. It targets a cruise speed of 145 knots. Maximum range, with standard fuel tanks, will stand at 430 nm.

The company is prepared for new competing models to be launched by the SH09’s entry into service, according to Senes. In fact, he cites the company’s small staff as a key to its agility. “Look at what Sikorsky has done to develop the revolutionary X2; it relied on a small high-performance task force of 50 people, coordinated by Sikorsky Innovations,” Senes pointed out. Marenco Swiss Helicopter employs about 50 people.