OEM Support for Commercial Rotorcraft

By Todd Vorenkamp

AgustaWestlandpic251When compared to the companies producing today’s business jets, manufacturers of commercial helicopters face support and maintenance challenges that are unique to the rotorcraft operational environment no matter the aircraft’s mission. The utilitarian nature of the helicopter has the aircraft operating in some of the most remote areas of the globe in unforgiving environments. Helicopters are not usually crossing great distances at high altitude while traveling from large airport to large airport—they are likely flying from remote bases to oil rigs, logging sites, power lines, construction zones, medical facility helipads, or city heliports.

Also unique to helicopter is the extent at which the machine is acted upon by constant vibration and, because it is operating at lower altitudes, environmental wear and tear. Working helicopters are not always landing on paved surfaces; they are often setting down in confined areas and unprepared landing zones full of dust, rocks, snow and any number of foreign debris. Coupled with the fact that, when compared to fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters have a relatively high number of flight-critical dynamic components, OEMs face a constant challenge to rapidly deploy parts and maintenance expertise to the field to keep customers flying.

Because of the variety of missions that helicopters perform, the flight dynamics of rotary-wing flight, and the fact they often operate from remote locations, the support network from the aircraft manufacturers must be flexible, responsive and far-reaching in order to compete with third-party repair centers and parts dealers while delivering value and service to the customer.

Warranty Programs
Sikorsky offers its customers two basic warranty options. Sikorsky’s Total Assurance Program and Powertrain Assurance Program each provide fixed-cost-per-flight-hour maintenance programs to operators of the S-76 helicopter and S-92 helicopter. The Total Assurance Program covers the cost of repairing or replacing the majority of parts, including airframe, drive train, gearboxes, and avionics. The Powertrain Assurance Program narrows the coverage to gearboxes. A third program provides loaner rotor blades and component exchanges. Sikorsky’s programs are currently supporting over 165 operators in 24 countries.

Bell Helicopter also offers customers of new aircraft an option of three different warranty plans offering customer-selected options such as local repair, supplier repair, Bell repair and warranty credit for the cost of replacement parts. They also offer warranty programs for customers purchasing a used Bell Helicopter.

Robinson Helicopter’s new aircraft warranty covers parts and provides a labor allowance for two years or 1000 flight-hours, whichever occurs first. They do not offer a fixed-cost per flight hour. Buyers of a used Robinson may subscribe to a factory overhaul program.

AgustaWestland offers three basic service plans for customers—a Component Protection Agreement, Special Component Protection Agreement, and a Component Overhaul and Maintenance Program that covers major components on a flight-hour basis. The Italian arm of AgustaWestland refers to the programs as “Extended Warranty Programs” versus “Power by the Hour” for the U. S. programs.


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