Schweizer: unprecedented growth

 - March 12, 2007, 12:24 PM

According to Schweizer Aircraft president Paul Schweizer, business has never been better. Incorporated into the United Technologies (UTC) conglomerate as a subsidiary of Sikorsky Aircraft in 2004, Schweizer is now enjoying unprecedented sales and revenue growth, resulting in increased production of its piston and turbine helicopter models. Schweizer expects this growth in the helicopter side of its business to continue “exponentially” in the next few years as a direct result of the Sikorsky integration, especially after Schweizer opens its new Sikorsky interior completions center later this year.

“Our helicopter business has never been stronger than it is today,” Schweizer told HAI Convention News. “Our sales revenues have increased by 25 percent each year [since 2004]. We have order backlogs for both our piston and turbine helicopter lines that extend well over a year. We simply can’t make them fast enough.”

Schweizer Aircraft produced 66 helicopters in 2006 and expects to increase that number to 78 units this year, with 66 piston 300C and 300CBi models and 12 turbine 333 models. The production increase will be made possible partially through Schweizer’s agreement with China’s AVIC II to produce sheet metal airframe component kits for various Schweizer models. The kits are then shipped back to Elmira, N.Y., for installation at the Schweizer factory.

The increase in production will be needed to fill some big orders. Edra Aeronáutica, Schweizer’s exclusive distributor in Brazil, has ordered eleven 300CBi helicopters, eight of which will be delivered by July for use by Secretaria Nacional de Segurança Publica (SENASP) to provide airborne security at this year’s Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. Other international orders waiting to be filled include twenty-four 300CBi models to various operators in France, Australia and New Zealand, and 10 helicopters of various models to operators in the UK.

“In part we’re clearly being helped because Sikorsky’s reach is longer than ours ever was, especially in the military/government arena,” Schweizer said. “We’re now [integrating] the Sikorsky network of sales representatives with the Schweizer network, coming up with the individuals that can best represent our products. Also, Sikorsky’s marketing people, although their main job might not be selling 300C helicopters, are always on the lookout for new opportunities. So we’re being aided by Sikorsky’s direct-marketing people as well as improving our network.”

Schweizer is also gearing up to open a new 100,000-sq-ft completions facility. Dubbed the Sikorsky “HawkWorks by Schweizer Aircraft,” the facility will serve as the primary completions center for all Black Hawk and Naval Hawk military helicopter derivatives requiring customized configurations, generally serving international customers.

“This will be huge business for us,” Schweizer said. “All new products coming off the Sikorsky [Black Hawk] line not ordered with the standard U.S. military configuration will be thrown over to Schweizer for completion. By the year’s end, HawkWorks will be employing more than 100 people, and we expect it to grow over the years.”

The HawkWorks building, located just a quarter mile from the Schweizer factory on the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport, will also serve as Sikorsky’s rapid prototyping center, giving such projects as Sikorsky’s X2 technology demonstrator more elbow room.

“Schweizer is now the prototype development unit for UTC and Sikorsky aerospace products, and that’s really exciting stuff for us,” Schweizer said. “Doing the X2 is not only fun, it’s helping us develop our technical expertise.” Schweizer spurned other suitors in 2004 because it could fill a niche where Sikorsky simply did not have products in the marketplace. In addition to light helicopters, Schweizer also produces unmanned aerial vehicles and sailplanes and serves as an airframe subcontractor to various aerospace OEMs.