Public Service

Leonardo Loses Cal Fire Protest; United Rotorcraft Wins S-70i Deal

By S.L. Fuller | December 12, 2017

S-70i makes first flight in Poland. Photo from file.

S-70i makes first flight in Poland. Photo from file.

Wildfires rage in southern California, following devastating blazes in the northern part of the state not too long before. California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) has been fighting these fires with an aging fleet of Bell Helicopter UH-1Hs. But a judge has officially given Cal Fire permission to modernize its fleet with Sikorsky S-70is.

An individual familiar with the proceedings told R&WI that Air Methods’ United Rotorcraft division was officially awarded a five-year contract to deliver customized S-70is late Monday. R&WI has since confirmed the award with Leonardo, United Rotorcraft and Sikorsky. The deal was originally announced in August, but was then protested by bid competitor Leonardo, which had offered its AW189. After multiple hearings by California's Department of General Services Office of Administrative Hearings, and a short verdict postponement due to a departmental issue, a judge ruled against Leonardo, in favor of United Rotorcraft.

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United Rotorcraft had been working with Sikorsky and its other team members since April to craft a winning bid for new helicopters to perform aerial firefighting and other missions. Under the contract, Sikorsky's PZL Mielec subsidiary in Poland is to build the International Black Hawks there, and ship them to the U.S. The first of the new helicopters, which will carry a price tag of about $20 million a piece (training and life-cycle costs included), is set to be delivered within a year. If the contract had gone into effect at the beginning of August, the helicopter may have arrived prior to August 2018.

According to individuals familiar with the proposal, other team members include Axnes, Becker Avionics and Churchill Navigation, which would provide onboard avionics, communication and mapping systems; Breeze-Eastern, which would provide the aircraft's cargo hook; UTC Aerospace, which would provide its hoist; and Air Comm, which would provide Black Hawks’ environmental conditioning system. Kawak Aviation would develop a new-generation water tank for the firefighting helicopters.

This story is developing.

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