Sikorsky and Qatar’s Gulf Helicopters Mull Joint Service Center
By WENDELL MINNICK, ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates
Sikorsky, the U.S.-based helicopter maker, and Qatar-based Gulf Helicopters are looking at creating a Middle East service center for the U.S.-built rotorcraft.
The memorandum of understanding, signed Feb. 19 by Sikorsky President Jeffrey Pino and Mohamed Al Mohannadi, Qatar-based Gulf Helicopters’ aviation management general manager, could lead to the creation of a center to provide maintenance support, spares, training, design and development services to Sikorsky, Gulf and other commercial and governmental aircraft owners in the region. It would also create and manage a fleet operations center to provide logistics support.
Formed in 1970, Gulf Helicopters serves the oil industry and others by providing transport, seismic support, and load-lifting helicopters. The firm is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state-owned Qatar Petroleum.
Sikorsky and Gulf Helicopters also signed a contract for the second of two S-92 helicopters to serve regional heads of state and other top officials. Recently, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Korea also selected the S-92 Helibus medium transport helicopters for VVIP service.
Stephen Estill, Sikorsky vice president and chief marketing officer, said the agreement is part of Sikorsky’s attempt to build regional sales. The firm has recently sold S-92 and S-76C helicopters in the Middle East.
Estill said that regional military sales have also been improving. In 2006, the U.S. Congress approved the sale of a variety of Sikorsky helicopters under the Foreign Military Sales program.
“Saudi Land Forces has ordered 24 UH-60L Blackhawks, Bahrain air force is getting nine UH-60Ms, the UAE air force is getting 26 UH-60Ms, and Jordan’s air force is getting two additional Blackhawks to add to the eight they are currently ordering,” he said.
Deliveries are expected between 2008 and 2010.
In late 2006, Turkey ordered 17 Naval Hawk S-70Bs for anti-submarine warfare operations to add to the eight they have in service, he said.