Sikorsky celebrates success

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2008

For hundreds of employees at the Sikorsky plant in Troy, Tuesday was a first.

Workers there spend hours piecing together the airframe for the MH-60R Naval Hawk helicopter, but Tuesday was the first time any of them had got a close look at the finished product.

Sikrosky and U.S. Navy officials celebrated the Troy plant’s success at meeting the Navy’s demand for the advanced new combat helicopter by having a flight crew land a “Romeo” on the grounds of the Troy plant. Workers climbed into, under and on top of the aircraft to see how their handiwork looked in finished form.

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“This is truly a magnificent aircraft and you should all be proud of your contribution to this machine,” U.S. Navy Commodore Don Williamson said to workers gathered around the aircraft for the ceremony.

The “Romeo” variant of the Naval Hawk replaces the earlier SH-60B and SH-60F choppers. The MH-60R is designed to be a multi-mission aircraft but will be play a primary role in antisubmarine warfare, Williamson said.

“We’re the only ones doing it so we have to be good it,” he said. “This aircraft allows us to be good at it.”

In production at Troy for the past 18 months, the first 11 completed MH-60Rs were delivered to the Navy last Thursday. The first Navy squadron of the helicopters is set to deploy aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in January, Williamson said.

“This is a very complex aircraft,” said Greg Hoffman, Sikorsky’s director of U.S. Navy requirement. He said the Navy has ordered 298 of the new Naval Hawks.

The Troy plant has ramped up production to meet demand for the new aircraft. More than 400 new employees have been added in the last 18 months.

Eric Scott, planning and control manager for the Troy plant, said the plant’s staffing needs are stable now, “but there is always the potential for more growth.”

With the additional workers, the Troy plant is putting out more helicopters than ever before. The plant produced 11 airframes in the third quarter of the year, more than were produced all of last year.