VH-92 Helicopter (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Hunter Helis)
Lockheed Martin said on Wednesday it was abandoning its plans to close its Coatesville, Pa., helicopter plant by year's end after company CEO Marillyn Hewson was urged by President Trump to keep the facility open.
“At the request of President Trump, I took another look at our decision to close the Coatesville, PA facility and have decided to keep it open while we pursue additional work," Hewson said in a statement posted to Lockheed's Twitter feed. "It’s a good operation with an excellent workforce. We look forward to working with the government and PA Congressional delegation to find more work for this facility.”
Dan Schultz, the president of Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky division and a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot, said last month that the slump in the rotorcraft market, particularly oil and gas, meant that the company could no longer sustain work in Coatesville and that the company planned to move the work to other Lockheed facilities.
"S-92 and S-76D production and completions will continue in Coatesville, as well as the Canadian Maritime Helicopter Program," Hewson said July 10.
The Coatesville plant helps produce the VH-92, which Sikorsky completes in Stratford, Connecticut.
The still-experimental VH-92 presidential helicopter made its first official public appearance during President Trump’s July Fourth extravaganza, leading two MV-22 Ospreys over the festivities on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Several of the Sikorsky-built aircraft are in flight test at Naval Station Patuxent River in Maryland, south of Washington, D.C. They are not yet cleared to carry the president, but will be operated by Marines and replace the current fleet of VH-3D “Marine One” Sea Kings and VH-60 N White Hawks, both also made by Sikorsky.
The building of six VH-92 test aircraft in Coatesville under the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase "is not enough to keep this workforce fully employed," Schultz wrote in a June 11 letter to Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pennsylvania, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Plans are to purchase 23 VH-92s to replace the current fleet of VH-3D Sea Kings, also made by Sikorsky. That number includes 17 production helicopters, four for training and the remaining two for testing. The Marine Corps is to purchase the 17 production aircraft over the course of three years, between fiscal years 2019 and 2021.
On May 30, the Navy made a milestone C decision to move the VH-92A development program into production. Two weeks later, Sikorsky received a $542 million Navy contract to build six low-rate initial production VH-92A presidential helicopters as part of the Marine Corps' plan for 23 aircraft to replace the current White House transport fleet.
Sikorsky is to deliver the six helicopters between 2021 and 2023.