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Indian company makes chopper airframes for US

New Delhi, Feb 18 (Calcutta Tube) The first India-made airframe of the Sikorsky S-92 medium-lift helicopter will be handed over to the US firm in November and there is the distinct possibility of the entire chopper being manufactured in this country at some stage – the first time that a major aviation actitivity is being done in the private sector.

The airframes will be manufactured at the Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) facility in Hyderabad with three being produced this year and the number gradually rising to 38-48 annually.

‘The factory is up and running and is fully functional. The first airframe of the S-92 will be handed over in November,’ Air Vice Marshal (retd) A.J.S. Walia, managing director (India and South Asia) of Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of the DefExpo land and naval systems exposition.

‘This is the first time in the history of independent India that a major aviation activity is starting in the private sector,’ Walia pointed out.

From Hyderabad, the airframes will be airlifted or sent by ship to the Sikorsky headquarters at Stratford, Connecticut, where the engines, avionics and interiors will be installed before the helicopter is delivered.

‘We have drawn up a roadmap for the future and a lot of activities are planned up to 2013-15. Eventually, the full helicopter could even be produced in India,’ Walia said.

The S-92 is the most advanced helicopter in Sikorsky’s civil product line, certified to the most stringent safety requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The manufacture of the airframes stems out of an MoU TASL and Sikorsky inked during the AeroIndia military aviation exposition in Bangalore in 2007. The formal agreement on this was signed last June.

‘This just shows how fast we have gone forward,’ Walia said.

Japan’s Mitsubishi is currently producing the airframes and will continue to do so as an overlap till the Hyderabad facility reaches its full capacity.

‘Sikorsky is making India its second home after the US. There are enough skills, talent and willingness available here and so we would like to be here. So, we are proud of our association with the Tatas,’ Walia said.

To this end, the two companies had on Nov 12, 2009, announced the signing of an agreement to create another joint venture to manufacture aerospace components for Sikorsky in India, including components for S-92 cabins.

‘Eventually, India will be our main source of components and eventually, the full helicopter could be produced in India,’ Walia said.

The Tatas will be creating a second facility at Hyderabad for producing components, with production beginning in late 2012.

Sikorsky is also in talks with the Indian Navy to fulfil its requirements of multi-role helicopters, offering the S-70B through the direct commercial sale route.

Simultaneously, the US Air Force has also responded to the Indian Navy’s request for proposal (RFP) for the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky MH-60R.

In addition, Sikorsky is also in dialogue with the Indian Coast Guard to meet its specific requirements and has responded to its request for information (RFI).

(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at vishnu.makhijani@ians.in)

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