By Staff Writer | July 1, 2009
Each day across America, millions of people are able to look up and see one of the most visible champions for general aviation hard at work: the helicopter. Rotary-wing aircraft perform vital missions for the U.S. armed forces, law enforcement, medical and humanitarian operators, transportation providers and many other organizations both public and private. Today, many of these helicopters are likely to be American Eurocopter products.
Now celebrating its 40th year in the U.S., American Eurocopter is a major aerospace company by any measure. The company is the U.S. arm of the Eurocopter Group, the world’s largest helicopter manufacturer. Eurocopter, created in 1992 through the merger of Germany’s Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG and France’s Aerospatiale, reflects a distinguished pedigree derived from a heritage of remarkable achievements in flight. Today, more than 10,000 Eurocopter rotorcraft are flying in 140 countries around the globe. American Eurocopter also is a unit of EADS North America. EADS is a global leader in aerospace and defense.
The enterprise employs more than 700 American engineers, production technicians, program specialists and administrators engaged in manufacturing, marketing, comprehensive technical support and training for an exceptionally robust product line. American Eurocopter’s helicopters range from light single-engine models to large multi-engine utility rotorcraft with room for up to 19 passengers. The company’s facilities in Grand Prairie, Texas, and Columbus, Miss., generated about $740 million in total economic impact in 2008, including its network of more than 1,000 suppliers nationwide. Today, 600 federal and state government and private operators rely on 1,800 American Eurocopter rotorcraft, and these totals are growing rapidly. Last year, the company delivered 135 commercial helicopters, plus 35 UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters for the U.S. Army. American Eurocopter products now consistently capture half the U.S. law enforcement market, and about 50 state and local agencies take full advantage of the speed, reliability and versatility these helicopters provide to save lives and keep people safe and secure.
American Eurocopter traces its lineage to aerospace organizations that revolutionized the rotorcraft industry in the U.S. and Europe. In France, Aerospatiale achieved early market success with the SE.3130 Alouette II, the first production helicopter with turbine propulsion, which entered U.S. service in the late 1950s. In the U.S., the 1960s saw Ling-Temco-Vought — a company whose heritage included the famed Vought-Sikorsky 300A — develop the XC-142, an experimental tiltwing aircraft that combined vertical takeoff and landing capabilities with fixed- wing airplane flight performance. Soon after the 1969 Paris Air Show, the two companies announced a partnership, Vought Helicopter, Inc. VHI marketed Aerospatiale helicopters in the U.S. and eventually planned to design new rotorcraft.
With offices in Dallas, Texas, the new business covered the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but it faced an enormous challenge: In 1969, U.S. manufacturers dominated the market. At the time, only 17 SE.3130s were flying for eight commercial customers in North America. The Alouette’s power and advanced capabilities soon captured customer interest, however, and sales took off. In 1972, VHI moved to facilities in Grand Prairie, Texas. The first commercial air medical service, Denver’s Flight for Life, initiated service with an Alouette III the same year. The company expanded its product line with first delivery of the SA.341 Gazelle, the first to use composite rotor blades and the Fenestron shrouded tail rotor.
In 1973, LTV sold its interest in VHI to Aerospatiale. The company soon reorganized as Vought Helicopter Corporation and continued operations with the same facilities and people. The company also opened an outside service facility and added government agencies to its customer roster. 1976 brought a new name, Aerospatiale Helicopter Corporation (AHC), and a new helicopter, the SA.330J Puma, a multi-engine utility and transport rotorcraft with room for 20 passengers that supported offshore oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico. AHC enjoyed expansion through the remainder of the decade, introducing new helicopter models to its product line, expanding its Grand Prairie plant, and winning a stiff competition against Bell and Sikorsky for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Short Range Recovery helicopter requirement with the SA.366, later designated the HH-65 Dolphin.
After just one busy and productive decade, AHC transformed from a small marketing operation into a mainstream manufacturing enterprise. Its sophisticated product line and growing list of commercial and government customers made the company a rising star among the established U.S. helicopter producers and promised a strong future. In 1980, when total U.S. helicopter deliveries from all companies peaked at 589, the AS350, known as the A-Star in the U.S., led the industry with about 100 sales of this single model. The company dedicated its completed plant expansion, and a federal court decision eliminated a protest that delayed production of Coast Guard Dolphins. 1981 was a high point for the firm, with 138 deliveries increasing its fleet in the U.S. to more than 700 helicopters. More than 700 employees generated revenues well in excess of $100 million. The 1980s suffered, however, from a general economic downturn, forcing the company to retrench. Commercial deliveries and revenues declined sharply, and the business concentrated on law enforcement, air medical and corporate market segments, all of which remain primary interests today.
After protest litigation ended, the Coast Guard modified AHC’s HH-65 production contract, increasing the program total to 96 new Dolphins. Deliveries did not begin until late 1984 but increased from one to two per month in mid-1985, in part offsetting declines in commercial orders. Despite economic uncertainties, the business continued to build on early successes in emergency medical services and law enforcement. Big city police aviation units, notably in Los Angeles and San Francisco, received their first A-Stars, establishing a baseline that brought additional interest from other municipal, state and federal agencies. Eventually more than 75 law enforcement units from Alaska to Florida and Massachusetts to Southern California would fly eight models or variants configured for several missions ranging from rescue and firefighting to border surveillance.
The 1990s brought major organizational changes and an expanded line of new products featuring advanced capabilities. The merger of Daimler Benz AG and Aerospatiale in 1992 created Eurocopter, a new global helicopter business with technical capabilities greater than the sum of its already powerful parts. American Eurocopter was a natural and immediate outcome of the merger, and the company’s current name has a longer tenure than any previous title.
The new decade brought a far more important development, however, with the introduction of a host of new helicopter designs that addressed evolving U.S. markets by incorporating advanced technologies and operational features that have kept AE in the forefront of the rotorcraft industry.
Among these new products developed or first available in the 1990s are the EC120 light helicopter, a popular platform serving ten local law enforcement agencies as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the EC130 widebody helicopter in service with tour operators, air medical providers and law enforcement agencies; the EC135, a twin-engine civil helicopter with the Fenestron tail rotor system, used for air medical and offshore oil support operations; and the EC155, a fast twin-engine transport with room for up to 13 passengers.
The expanded product line called for more efficient manufacturing facilities as well as improved training and service support capabilities. In 1998, AE consolidated its production operations in nine buildings with just under 310,000- square-feet of covered space. Flight and maintenance training are available at the factory and in the field. The company operates major service centers on each coast and numerous authorized service providers throughout the United States, which keep AE helicopters flying from Puerto Rico to Hawaii. Engine and avionics repair centers are also nearby, with Turbomeca USA and Sagem Avionics operating facilities adjacent to AE’s plant in Grand Prairie.
American Eurocopter has taken full advantage of its solid position in the U.S. helicopter market in the 21st century to win new opportunities with prudent growth that avoids business cycle booms and busts. A notable development at the beginning of the new century was the formation in 2000 of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. (EADS), combining French, German and Spanish aerospace resources and capabilities into a single large enterprise, and EADS North America, the U.S. wing of the consortium, which includes American Eurocopter.
The new year also saw the first flight of the EC225 Super Puma, a large, long-range transport helicopter optimized for offshore oil support missions as well as search and rescue and VIP missions. The company completed first deliveries of several new models, including the EC130, EC145 and EC155, to U.S. customers, and the EC120 reached a high point with 23 deliveries in 2001. AE’s focus on rotorcraft tailored for law enforcement missions helped the business capture about half that market consistently since 1999, and complete half of all new U.S. helicopter deliveries in 2004.
The military market framed AE’s major accomplishment in the decade, however, with the win in 2006 of the U.S. Army’s Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) competition and EADS North America’s assignment as the prime contractor for the LUH program. The LUH, designated as the UH-72A Lakota, is derived from the EC145. At least 345 Lakotas will replace the remnants of the Army’s UH-1 Huey fleet with a far more capable twin-engine rotorcraft. The Lakota not only flies faster, further and more efficiently than the Hueys it will replace, but it is also better suited to perform many missions currently performed by other larger aircraft in the Army fleet. AE demonstrated its commitment to the Army’s production schedule when it delivered the first UH-72A before the end of 2006, less than six months after winning the LUH contract. Production of new light helicopter variants for the Army may lead to additional orders.
To meet its expanding manufacturing requirements, AE also opened a new facility in Columbus, Miss. A temporary hangar opened in 2003 near Golden Triangle Regional Airport, and the new factory quickly expanded to handle Lakota production as well as AS350 B2 and B3 A-Stars for commercial customers. Today, more than 200 American workers are making U.S. Army helicopters in Columbus. More expansion in Grand Prairie, including a new training center and warehouse, followed in 2007 and 2008, along with new support centers in California and Florida.
The U.S. helicopter industry faces daunting challenges that have required major changes affecting nearly every facet of business. American manufacturers no longer dominate the markets at home or abroad, and rely increasingly upon airframes and components imported from overseas. New global alliances offer highly competitive rotorcraft with multi-mission capabilities to meet customer requirements for versatility and efficient operations. Budget constraints in both public and private sectors are limiting purchases, and customers are demanding maximum value for their investments in new helicopters. At the same time, operators are pushing their current fleets to the edge, seeking greater reliability from existing rotorcraft by installing improved systems and new technologies. In an industry that once enjoyed multiple new program starts and additional procurements of existing helicopters primarily from military customers, the impact of these rollbacks has been severe. Large manufacturers with thousands of employees working on big military rotorcraft programs have merged or consolidated operations, cut personnel and struggled with stagnant or slipping revenues. Although current conflicts have recently increased military purchases, as the LUH competition demonstrates, the U.S. armed forces are focusing on rotorcraft value and capability without regard to a design’s origin.
American Eurocopter’s expanding and efficient production operations give it tremendous competitive advantages in the volatile U.S. helicopter market. With its expansion into the military market, prospects for additional sales and production are strong. The U.S. Army terminated two armed reconnaissance helicopter development and production programs in 2004 and 2008, but the mission requirements remain. AE is ready to provide a variant of the UH-72A for the armed scout role, and it already has proven that it can deliver, literally and figuratively, a capable platform at a reasonable cost. In addition, after recent engine and systems upgrades, more than 100 HH-65 Dolphin helicopters will continue as a mainstay of U.S. Coast Guard aviation for many years and may lead to additional procurements.
In the civil market sector, AE will expand its leadership as a provider of exceptional rotorcraft for law enforcement and air medical services. Versatility is a major factor in these market sectors. Law enforcement agencies in particular must rely on small fleets to perform a wide variety of missions, and air medical helicopters must perform in many different situations and circumstances. AE helicopters from the EC120 to Super Puma share features that enable them to exceed mission requirements and unexpected challenges while saving lives, enforcing laws and helping to maintain public safety and security. AE’s close working relationships with its customers and Eurocopter will continue to ensure that the needs of U.S. operators are incorporated in new models being introduced over the coming decades, supported by an expanded Texas-based engineering team.
AE is making comparable commitments to training and customer support. Aircrews will continue to receive state-of-the-art initial and recurrent flight and maintenance training at the AE Training Center in Grand Prairie or in the field from the company’s expert instructors. The Center utilizes full-motion simulators for its most popular models and will incorporate other training advances as they occur. Customer service and support will enable operators to minimize down time through its maintenance facilities and its network of service centers in 15 states and Puerto Rico and with Keycopter, the company’s digital parts and instruction system. U.S. operators will also benefit from an advanced Call Service Center being established in AE’s Grand Prairie headquarters, delivering on the company’s promise to keep operators flying 24 hours a day.
After 40 years, American Eurocopter’s proven products, growing markets and lean, well-managed corporate structure, infuse exceptional quality into every task from manufacturing to lifetime service support and will keep the company at the forefront of the U.S. rotorcraft industry for decades to come.
Flying for Life — Pioneering Air Medical Services
For a moment, imagine the worst. A drunk driver just broadsided your car on a remote stretch of highway. You survived, still conscious despite severe injuries and terrible pain. Police and firemen from a nearby town have responded quickly, but you need immediate care at a trauma center, many miles from the accident. Your future, measured in labored breaths, hangs in the balance.
Suddenly, you hear the unmistakable sound of a helicopter flying near. In no time, its blades still turning, the rotorcraft lands on the road just yards from the scene. Emergency medical technicians in flight helmets race to your side and quickly wheel you on a gurney to the helicopter. You lift off, and in minutes, emergency room personnel are whisking you into the hospital to save your life.
Nearly every day in the U.S., dedicated flight and medical professionals rescue people in scenarios just like this one, relying on helicopters to get accident victims to medical facilities when literally every second counts. American Eurocopter has been instrumental to the success of civil, hospital-based air medical services from the start, saving thousands of lives by flying directly from accident locations to helipads adjacent to emergency rooms.
The first commercial air medical service, Denver’s Flight for Life, commenced life-saving operations in 1972, flying an Alouette II. The Alouette could carry two patients on externally mounted stretchers, a far cry from the advanced rotorcraft now in use. Today, AE offers a variety of single- and twin-engine helicopters to meet the needs of local and regional air medical services throughout the U.S. AE’s AS350 AStar, EC130, EC135, EC145 and the long-range AS365 and EC155 serve air medical providers with safe, efficient rotorcraft equipped with in-flight treatment suites and the ability to fly in all weather conditions. These capabilities have made American Eurocopter’s products dominant in the U.S. air medical service market, accounting for about three-quarters of all deliveries to this sector in the last ten years.
A showcase of vendors who supply American Eurocopter and its customers
Cobham’s products and services have been at the heart of sophisticated military and civil systems for more than 70 years, keeping people safe, improving communications, and enhancing the capability of land, sea, air and space platforms. The Company has four divisions employing more than 12,000 people on five continents, with customers and partners in over 100 countries and annual revenue of more than $2.1 billion.
Cobham Avionics delivers component and integrated system solutions for rotorcraft and fixed-wing markets covering helicopter, special mission, general aviation, and air transport mission applications.
With end-to-end avionics solutions or a ‘Cobham Cockpit’, the requirements of a variety of airborne applications can be met through platform specific implementation of the following core competencies: ADAHRS and GPS sensors; airborne file servers and networking; area navigation and flight management; audio and radio management – analogue and digital; ARCDU/ARMS; autopilots and stability augmentation for airplanes and helicopters; civil and tactical communications; cockpit and external lighting; cockpit voice recorders; emergency locator transmitters; engine indication and crew alerting; Flexcomm multi-band radios; integrated radio/audio management systems; navigation (VHF and RNAV); 3D synthetic vision EFIS; system integration and certification; terrain awareness and warning systems; tactical surveillance video.
Leveraging a global presence, both FAA and EASA certifications, a broad technology base, and existing OEM positions with Agusta, Airbus, Bell, Boeing, Bombardier, Dassault, Eurocopter and Raytheon, Cobham Avionics offers high value solutions for virtually any avionics application.
Cobham has been a SATCOM market leader for 30 years, supplying satellite tracking antennas and communications systems for military and civil applications. Airborne products include complete Inmarsat systems and a range of steerable and phased array antennas used by military and commercial customers on commercial aircraft, business jets, helicopters and military platforms in high speed data and voice applications. The Division’s Comant communications and navigation antennas provide innovative solutions for reducing the number of antennas required for the ever increasing communications and data systems on modern aircraft, including weather data, GPS, Iridium and more.
Patriot and Tracstar Land products from 0.6 to 12 meters in fixed site, transportable, fly-away and auto-deploy antennas provide highly reliable solutions for radio astronomy, head-end, direct-to-home, on-the-pause and on the move applications. The Division’s radio interoperability systems provide critical communications where coordination of site services including handheld radios, cell phones, laptops, video, VOIP and satellite back haul makes the difference in command and control of emergency services. A range of back pack and auto deploy systems allows users to establish communications quickly and reliably.
Cobham’s Sea Tel marine products are known around the world for providing the best in stabilized antennas for commercial shipping, oil and gas platforms, cruise ships and super yachts. There are more than 20,000 antennas in the field.
A showcase of vendors who supply American Eurocopter and its customers
Aerospace Filtration Systems
Thousands of operators rely on advanced Inlet Barrier Filter Systems from AFS to eliminate unnecessary down time and to complete their missions with greater efficiency and reliability. Known as the helicopter filtration experts, AFS and its filtration products are in high demand by operators of Eurocopter AS350 and EC-130 helicopters who value the filters’ unique ability to prolong engine life, reduce maintenance, save money, and enhance aircraft mission capability compared to other filtration options.
With AFS barrier filter systems installed, even the most expensive engine components can survive long past their expected overhaul life. For example, a 20,000-hour design life compressor impeller, previously replaced at every 2,000-hour overhaul, due to erosion damage, can endure through multiple overhauls. Operators can achieve the ROI for a barrier filter system within one engine overhaul cycle.
Since 1998, AFS has invested heavily in applied materials research, turbine engine inlet 3-D flow and performance analysis tools, solid modeling and tool design, and the development of a comprehensive filtration media parametric database. These resources make AFS the technical leader in high flow engine filtration solutions.
The characteristics engineered into AFS systems are what make them the most effective engine filtration systems available. These include:
Whatever You Fly
In addition to its Eurocopter product line, AFS filters are available for a range of military aircraft and commercial helicopters that include: Bell 205, 206B, 206L-1/3/4, 407, and 429, MDHI MD 500 and MD 900/902, and AW119/AW119Ke.
As part of Donaldson Company, the leading provider of Aerospace & Defense filtration solutions, AFS has a world of unmatched resources and expertise at its fingertips — literally.
Everywhere You Are
Customers who have always turned to AFS for innovative, quality products today find that the company’s capabilities and reach have been further enhanced thorough collaboration with sister companies Le Bozec Filtration and Systems, based in Paris, France, and Western Filter, based in Valencia, California.
AFS, a wholly owned subsidiary of Donaldson, maintains its business operations in St. Louis, MO. AFS products are available directly from AFS or its dedicated distributors. For more information: Aerospace Filtration System, Inc., Sales and Marketing, 636-300-5200, email@example.com. www.AFSfilters.com.
Economic Impact: Vertical Climb
American Eurocopter has a proud European heritage, as do many other Americans. At AE, American technicians using American components build helicopters for American customers, generating significant economic impact at every step of the production process.
With headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas, the company has invested more than $40 million in facilities for manufacturing, training and customer support services, with much of that growth occurring in the last decade. More than 500 employees in management, engineering, marketing, administration and manufacturing technology live and work in Grand Prairie. These people earn pay and benefits worth more than $48 million a year. The company also spent more than $38 million to purchase goods and services from its extensive network of suppliers, many of which are in Texas.
AE invested $49 million in its new facility in Columbus, Miss., to build the U.S. Army’s UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter fleet. The company added more than 200 employees to the payroll in 2008, a significant counter to the national economic downturn. Eventually, almost 300 people will build and support Lakota helicopters and other models at the Mississippi facility. AE is spending about $36 million with vendors around the nation who are supporting this important program. AE’s presence in Mississippi has invigorated the region, and the company already has established ties with the state’s educational institutions to create training programs that will sustain the company in the future. AE has supported creation of a composite structures laboratory at Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Engineering Department and also is supporting cooperative education positions at the University.
American Eurocopter’s national economic impact involves more than 700 employees — a 23% increase from 2007 to 2008 — with more than $740 million in 2008 total economic impact, including revenues for the company and its network of more than 1,000 suppliers throughout the U.S., and the promise of future growth that will keep the U.S. helicopter industry healthy and vibrant.
A showcase of vendors who supply American Eurocopter and its customers
HeliworX Only from Kaman Helicopters
Rotorcraft Innovation Center
HeliworX, a full-service rotorcraft innovation and manufacturing support center, taps into Kaman’s rotorcraft experience, capability, and capacity to deliver vertical flight solutions to the world’s prime helicopter manufacturers. With a full range of prime helicopter capabilities, the 500,000 square-foot HeliworX center easily manages the largest, most complex, and flight-critical work, always done right the first time. From all-composite rotors to airframe integration and installations, HeliworX brings a new level of competency to America’s rotorcraft supply chain. There’s never a question about if or when your work will get done – we deliver so you can deliver.
We deliver, so you can deliver.
Look up in the sky. If it’s in the air, it’s part Kaman. From all-composite rotor blades to complete helicopter fuselages, Kaman is a quality supplier to some of the world’s most recognizable names in the rotorcraft industry, reliably delivering some 25,000 military and commercial components on a monthly basis.
From design to delivery, and everything in between, Kaman knows helicopters. It’s our single focus, and it’s a focus that shows in consistently reliable, high quality work.
We also understand the challenges faced by prime manufacturers. That’s why, when you work with Kaman, you never need to wonder if your work will be finished, or when it will be finished. Kaman’s diverse manufacturing capabilities and highly experienced people facilitate a full-service solution – a total solution that includes the ability to design, test, certify, and deliver complete helicopters, major assemblies, complex components, subassemblies and detail parts.
Kaman’s invaluable rotorcraft experience extends to all disciplines, from engineering to the factory floor, to project managers, and administrative personnel. It means that top people are ready for your job from day one. You don’t have to oversee a contract on site. Our qualified team adds value every step of the way.
Kaman’s helicopter-specific capabilities, people, facilities, and results are unsurpassed in the industry. We demand excellence from ourselves and we deliver it to customers worldwide.
Within HeliworX, overall capabilities include:
More specific capabilities include:
In addition to our manufacturing capabilities, HeliworX offers a range of specialized rotorcraft integration services.
Kaman also offers a range of highly effective specialty products for the rotorcraft market.
For More Information, Contact:
Senior Manager, Subcontract Business Development
A showcase of vendors who supply American Eurocopter and its customers
In the beginning…
Sagem Avionics, Inc. (SAFRAN Group) began operating in the United States in an effort to establish a local support presence for American Eurocopter, then Aerospatiale. In 1979, Sagem Avionics launched a dedicated US-based support program for the autopilots that were installed on the Puma Helicopter. Sagem Avionics leased facilities from the helicopter manufacturer in order to be able to respond to the company’s support needs. A year later, Sagem Avionics expanded its role with American Eurocopter with the development and certification of an autopilot solution for the Eurocopter AS350 A-Star helicopter. As Sagem Avionics and American Eurocopter grew, the companies built a strong relationship. By 1989, Sagem Avionics was incorporated in the US in response to the United States Coast Guard maintenance contract for actuators installed on the Eurocopter Dauphin HH-65A helicopters. Since then, Sagem Avionics and American Eurocopter have enjoyed a growing relationship which has allowed Sagem Avionics to certify its autopilot and actuation products on numerous Eurocopter platforms such as the Eurocopter EC120, EC130 and AS355.
In 2006, when EADS North America announced that the LUH145 military helicopter had been selected by the U.S. Army as its next-generation Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), Sagem Avionics was chosen to provide the UH72A’s Automatic Flight Control Systems (ACFS), which are partially produced at the company’s Grand Prairie, Texas facility. Sagem Avionics already supplied automatic flight control systems for EC145 helicopters used in civilian and special mission roles, as well as for the Eurocopter AS350, EC120, EC130, EC135, and EC155 rotary-wing aircraft. In 2008, the company ended their lease within the American Eurocopter facility. However, Sagem Avionics elected to remain close to its long standing partner, building their own state of the art facility adjacent to American Eurocopter’s Grand Prairie headquarters, thereby greatly expanding their operations and service capabilities for their customers.
Today, Sagem Avionics provides American Eurocopter helicopter owners certified retrofit solutions for glass cockpit integration. The ICDS (Integrated Cockpit Display System) can be installed on numerous Eurocopter aircraft including AS350, EC130 and EC120. The system integrates primary flight instruments, engine instruments, warning / caution system, and adds a host of multifunction features such as a Terrain Obstacle Proximity System (TOPS), and integration with radar and a Traffic Advisory System (TAS). The aircraft operator can also add a wide range of compatible avionics, such as an Enhanced Vision System (EVS), lightning detection, and weather radar or radios.
Orange and Green: AE’s Military Rotorcraft
Although its parent company has long provided many military helicopters for armed forces around the world, American Eurocopter has enjoyed a small but prominent role in U.S. military rotorcraft production. The company won a major competition for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Short Range Recovery helicopter program after competitor protests delayed the contract award until 1980. AE built more than 100 HH-65 Dolphins, with initial deliveries in 1984. Dolphins have performed missions ranging from search and rescue at sea and drug interdiction to homeland security patrol and pollution control. AE’s design enabled the HH-65 to incorporate exceptionally robust systems and capabilities into a helicopter weighing less than 10,000 lbs. About 75 percent of the Dolphin’s structure contains composite materials. The HH-65 also was the first helicopter to incorporate a four-axis autopilot system that enabled pilots fly a predetermined search pattern and concentrate on searching and to hover with hands off the controls over a specific location, even at night and in poor visibility. With two pilots and two aircrew rescue swimmers, the HH-65 has been directly responsible for saving thousands of people in coastal waters around the U.S. and has contributed to the nation’s security in drug interdiction and coastal patrol missions. Installation of new, more powerful turbine engines and more advanced avionics systems will keep the Dolphin in service for many years.
More recently, EADS North America’s winning bid for the U.S. Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program in 2006 set the stage for American Eurocopter’s production of more than 345 UH-72A Lakota helicopters and enabled the company to open a new manufacturing facility in Columbus, Miss. The Lakota is derived from the EC145 and brings unprecedented power and capabilities for the Army’s light utility and medical evacuation missions. Deliveries began within months of the contract award and production is slated to continue through 2014. This year, EADS North America together with partner, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control division as systems integrator, announced intentions to compete to fill the Army’s requirement for an armed scout helicopter (in light of the 2008 termination of the ARH contract for cost overruns and schedule delays) with an armed version of American Eurocopter’s UH-72A Lakota. Given its commercial off-the-shelf origin, the Lakota may well take on this role and generate significantly more production in the future.