A crowd of more than 225 employees, members of Connecticut's congressional delegation and guests gathered at the company's Stratford, Conn. headquarters for the kick-off ceremony. The event was held in the hangar where Sikorsky's Vh-92 presidential demonstrator aircraft was on display.
"The President deserves the safest, most advanced helicopter in the world built under the most secure environment possible," said Sikorsky President Steve Finger. "That helicopter is the Sikorsky VH-92; engineered, manufactured and assembled in America. It flies faster, farther, quieter, carries more and costs less to operate than the competition."
In the coming months, the Sikorsky VH-92 presidential demonstrator will embark on a multi-state tour to its partners'' facilities and other stops for employee rallies, flight demonstrations and press events.
In January 2004 Sikorsky announced the formation of the All-American VH-92 Team to respond the Navy's Request for Proposal for the VXX competition, the designation for the procurement of presidential helicopters.
Joining Sikorsky are six companies that already provide products, systems, or training for a presidential mission: FlightSafety International in New York, NY (simulation and training equipment); L-3 Communications Integrated Systems in Greenville, Tex. (mission communications equipment and aircraft interior furnishings); Northrop Grumman in Rolling Meadows, Ill. and San Jose, Calif. (aircraft survivability equipment); Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (major cockpit systems); Vought Aircraft Industries in Dallas (integrated aerostructures); and General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, Mass.
Sikorsky has built and maintained the presidential helicopter fleet since 1957 and has a Department of Defense compliant security infrastructure in place. The VH-92 will be made in America. Sikorsky's competitor is offering an Anglo-Italian helicopter for the presidential mission.
"The security of the President cannot be compromised," Finger said. "Sikorsky uniquely understands the security needs of the Presidential fleet. We have the team and processes in place to meet this critical requirement. In fact, the VH-92 All-American Team was created to ensure that the data, design, manufacture, assembly and support of the Presidential helicopter will always be under U.S. control.".
The VH-92 is a derivative of the Sikorsky S-92, the first and only helicopter in the world certified to the FAA's latest and most stringent safety standards as well as the latest safety standards of the European Aviation Safety Agency/Joint Aviation Authorities. The S-92 also meets U.S. military crashworthiness standards.
"Sikorsky has invested hundreds of millions of dollars of its own money in this product. The VH-92 incorporates safety and survivability improvements learned in millions of hours of Sikorsky BLACK HAWK helicopter experience." Finger said.
In 2002 the S-92 won the Collier Trophy for the "greatest achievement in aerospace" by the National Aeronautic Association, only the second helicopter ever so honored. The competitor's helicopter was originally designed in the 1980s and does not meet the latest FAA or European safety standards.
The VXX contract will provide research and development funds to improve the technologies and capabilities for the selected aircraft. "The VXX decision will be a significant factor in the future of the American helicopter industry. It raises the issue of whether American investment is to be rewarded or whether American tax dollars will be used to bring foreign competition up to the standards already certified by Sikorsky," Finger said.
The VH-92 demonstrator's cabin is equipped with leather chairs, couches, wood paneling, and carpeting. Special soundproofing and vibration control equipment provide a smooth, quiet ride that rivals an executive jet. Strategically-placed vibration sensors provide continuous data to a suite of active force generators. These sensors and force generators work as a system to counter the vibration of the rotors.
The VH-92 demonstrator has also been enhanced by an extensive set of Office in the Sky systems, including multiple communications downlinks, satellite data link, in-flight video conferencing capability, and wireless encrypted internet access from every seat.
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, based in Stratford, Conn., is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of advanced helicopters for commercial, industrial and military uses. Sikorsky helicopters occupy a prominent position in the intermediate to heavy range of 5,300 kg to 33,000 kg gross weight. They are flown by all five branches of the United States armed forces, along with military services and commercial operators in more than 40 nations.
Sikorsky is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX), of Hartford, Conn., which provides a broad range of high-technology products and support services to the aerospace and building systems industries.