It was six years ago that Sabreliner decided to enter the helicopter modification business. The company has since found a growing niche market in UH-60M Black Hawk modification and cabin refurbishment, transforming these rough-and-tumble combat aircraft into luxurious executive transport for heads-of-state around the world.
The St. Louis-based company most recently delivered executive variants of the Black Hawk to the Royal Jordanian Air Force, bringing the total number of highly modified UH-60Ms to 11.
The modifications include a special clamshell passenger door in place of the sliding cargo door. The aircraft modified for the Royal Jordanian Air Force included a full cabin entertainment system with iPod interface, DVD player, 17-inch monitors and an Iridium phone system allowing conference calling.
According to Tracy Ogle, v-p of strategic development and helicopter service, with the exception of a few outside suppliers, Sabreliner does all the interior work, including cabinetry, upholstery, sheet metal, composite work and exterior paint.
“When Sikorsky came out with the UH-60M model, it didn’t really expect a head-of-state mission profile for it, which is where we got involved,” explained Ogle. “Within the space constraints, we try to put all the same bells and whistles that a customer might expect in an executive version of the larger Sikorsky S-92.”
While a new Black Hawk is priced at more than $21 million, a used UH-60M is in the $3 million to $9 million range. According to Ogle, the additional cost of modification and interior completion by Sabreliner ranges from about $3 million to $6 million, depending on the extent of the cabin interior refurbishment and work required for the modification. Ogle said the center currently has a two-year backlog for the modified Black Hawks.