NBAA Convention News

SEI brings VIP helo interior expertise to U.S.

 - November 13, 2006, 10:26 AM

Servizi Elicotteristici Italiani, better known as SEI (exhibiting here at parent company Mercaer’s booth, No. 1047), has long been the shop of choice for helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland when it comes to completing executive/VIP interiors. Now SEI is expanding its capabilities to include very light jets and searching for a U.S. site to handle VIP helicopter cabin work.

SEI has its headquarters on the east coast of Italy in the small city of San Benedetto del Tronto, where it builds the interior components, including cabinetry, upholstery and the cabin shell for AgustaWestland. The components are packaged and sent in kit form for installation at the SEI facility in Vergiate, near Milan, where AgustaWestland has its assembly plant.

According to Davide Marucco, chief program manager for VIP interiors, SEI also has a traveling team charged with performing on-site minor cabin refurbishment.

Last year, said Marucco, SEI performed 133 Agusta-Westland interior completions–15 of them in executive/VIP configuration and the remainder customized for police, medical transport, aerial surveillance and other specialized uses.

Marucco said that of the 150 helicopters AgustaWestland builds each year, approximately 100 are for other than military use and the interiors are done by SEI.

Founded in 1971, the company has been the exclusive VIP helicopter interior provider for AgustaWestland for more than a decade. It is headed by CEO Francisco Sirgiovanni.

While the company currently deals exclusively in AgustaWestland cabins, that may change. “We believe there is a very large market for very light jets and we would like be part of that market by providing executive cabins for these airplanes,” Marucco said, adding that SEI has already begun talks with Eclipse in New Mexico and Embraer in Brazil. The interiors would be built at the Benedetto plant and shipped for installation.

According to Marucco, the company currently manufactures 12 to 15 VIP helicopter interiors a year. “But now AgustaWestland will open a new assembly plant in the U.S. and they have asked us to follow them,” he said. AgustaWestland was the winner last year in a prolonged, three-year competition to determine what manufacturer would build the next generation Marine One Presidential helicopter fleet. The first Marine One, a version of AgustaWestland’s EH 101, will carry the U.S. military designation US 101.

The new $27 million AgustaWestland facility in Philadelphia totals 110,000 sq ft and is scheduled for completion by the end of the year. SEI has been talking with a number of U.S. sources in search of a location for its U.S. shop, seeking “an alliance with an existing U.S. company, preferably someplace close to AgustaWestland’s new plant in Philadelphia.” Marucco did not rule out the possibility that the new U.S. completion facility might also do very light jet interiors.