MD Helicopters owner and CEO Lynn Tilton on Tuesday afternoon revealed the company's plans to submit a proposal for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program. “It’s taken a long time to make this company great again,” she said. “It’s been an exciting journey, but nothing has my heart or my time any more than this company.
“The military business has been certainly allowed us to reinvest in research and development and technology, and we have invested in hundreds of millions of dollars in the last couple of years,” Tilton added. “Most of the aircraft that we will deliver over these two years are single engine; and that’s because the twin-engine is under new research and development and certification, not only for our commercial aircraft but also for the MD969. We will have two aircraft that will have AWR [air worthiness release for Army tests or operations] with the Army."
This year the big effort will be on the 902/969, Tilton explained. The MD969 is an armed variant of the twin-engine MD 902 Explorer helicopter.
“We put this line on hold for a couple of years as we tried to meet all these certifications for the light attack helicopters, and this is the year we will get the certification for the 969 attack helicopter. The 969 will cruise at 160 knots and have a maximum speed of 180 knots," she said. The up-to-eight-seat MD 969 will be single-pilot and IFR certified and suitable for a broad range of military, para-military, and utility missions.
Tilton also revealed a 200-knot demonstrator known as Swift, which will compete for the FARA program. “This gives us three military aircraft: the MD 530F Cayuse, 969, and Swift.
“We moved all our tooling back from Turkey, which will be integrated in Mesa, [Arizona],” Tilton continued. “Building in-house makes us much more limber. We can respond very quickly to our customer base in everything we do."
The Swift is under development with a new Notar system and new fan, new thrusters, and longer, wider blades, she said. Cruise is 160 knots, and maximum speed is 180 knots. "We will build a new Notar demonstrator that will have a wing and go up to 200 knots. That’s our Swift."
Discussing her journey with MD, Tilton said, “Nothing has my heart or my time any more than this company. It’s really been a comeback story. We have a long way to go and lots to do, but when I walked into this company [in 2005], it didn’t have a production line; I had nobody that would supply us airframes; I had 365 grounded aircraft." But between last year and this year, MD will deliver more than 80 aircraft, most of them military, she said, adding, "which means that, from the production of the airframe, which we do in-house, through the missionization, that’s about 14,000 or 15,0000 hours, all done on-premise, everything made in Mesa.
"And a little known fact is that since 2012 there have been 110 light attack aircraft built through 2018—we built 105 of them. And we’re the only ones who do all the missionization in house. So from the time we build those body parts to the time we build the mission equipment, it never leaves the premise.”