Sunday, January 30, 2005

Texas and the Europeans win on high profile helicopter contract

Well, the news is about 48 hours old, and I'm willing to bet heads are still spinning. Here's the short of it: a European conglomerate has won the contract to build the next fleet of Marine One helicopters; the choppers will be built in Texas.
Lockheed Martin Corp. won the fierce fight over a $6.1 billion contract to build the new U.S. presidential helicopter fleet, the Department of Defense announced Friday.

Lockheed Martin beat out United Technologies Corp's Sikorsky unit.
The US101 is a pretty bird, but the Sikorsky S-92, a little less picturesque perhaps, is based on newer technology. According to Sikorsky,
Published data shows that the S-92, the baseline version of the H-92, flies farther, flies faster and carries more than the EH-101. Independent data confirms that the S-92 is lower in cost and costs less to operate.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency have certified the S-92 to a higher standard of safety than virtually every helicopter flying today, including the EH-101. Furthermore, since certification in December 2002, the S-92 and H-92 have won every other competition against the EH-101, including selection by the governments of Canada, Turkey, and Turkmenistan; Gulf Helicopters in Qatar; and CHC, the world's largest offshore oil operator.
None of this is contradicted on the US101 website. Indeed, they place the winning on other items.
The US101 cabin will offer the president's staff one-third more space than the competitor's cabin, along with the capacity and flexibility to add equipment as needs change over the life of the aircraft.
Yeh, that's important.

Here's my take: this was a political decision. Let's throw a bone to the Europeans and jobs to the Texans. We need to smooth things over with the Europeans, and, of course, jobs in the President's home state is a damn good thing, too.

Doesn't matter if the faster, longer range, heavier-lift, higher-tech, cheaper, safer bird is left on the ground. Nope, not at all. After all, the winner has a bigger cabin and nice seats.

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