Piasecki Aircraft and Columbia Helicopters Partner to Deliver Upgraded Heavy-Lift Tandem Rotorcraft

Joint Program to Upgrade Columbia Model 107-II Helicopters to new and enhanced Model-107-III Configuration. Coatesville Heliplex Selected as Development Site.

COATESVILLE, Penn. and Aurora, Ore. — July 2, 2024 — Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC), a global leader in advanced Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft development, and Columbia Helicopters (CHI), the world’s premier tandem rotor helicopter OEM, MRO, and operator, today announce a strategic collaboration to deliver upgraded heavy-lift helicopters worldwide.

The collaboration will upgrade existing Model 107-II helicopters to a new, more fuel-efficient, powerful and robust Columbia Model CHI-107-III configuration. This partnership supports customers in essential services such as emergency response, aerial firefighting, forestry, infrastructure, and defense. The military variant of the Model 107-II is the CH-46E Sea Knight (Phrog), which served with the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy, as well as allies in Sweden and Japan.

Modifications and testing will take place at Piasecki’s 219,000-square-foot Heliplex facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania – acquired in 2023 from Lockheed Martin Sikorsky after the S-76 and S-92 helicopter production lines at the site were closed and hundreds of jobs were lost. Piasecki’s acquisition of the facility was championed by Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6), Governor Josh Shapiro, and the Chester County Economic Development Council to create new jobs that leverage the unique aerospace skills in the region.

The Heliplex will also serve as CHI’s new field site, expanding opportunities on the East Coast. The partnership covers the development of comprehensive product support plans for the Columbia Model CHI-107-III – including establishing an FAA Part 145 Repair Station at the facility.

“We are thrilled to partner with Columbia Helicopters, a company that shares our heritage with the tandem helicopter, and our commitment to innovation and excellence in the rotorcraft industry,” said John Piasecki, CEO of Piasecki Aircraft. “This collaboration represents a significant step forward in the evolution of tandem rotor helicopters and promises to deliver enhanced capabilities to a wide range of military and civil applications. We look forward to working together to advance the future of this vertical lift technology and generate hundreds of jobs for our communities.”

“The new Columbia Model 107-III will transform the heavy-lift helicopter market, providing unrivalled performance and versatility for our customers” said David Balevic, CEO of Columbia Helicopters. “We are dedicated to pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and together with our partners at Piasecki, will deliver enhanced heavy-lift aircraft that save lives, protect nations, and build industries for decades to come.”

Piasecki and Columbia Helicopters: A shared history of rotorcraft innovation and support

Piasecki, with a rich 80-year history in the design, development, fabrication, and testing of rotary wing aircraft, brings its extensive experience and cutting-edge research to this partnership.

The Model 107-II’s distinctive tandem rotor configuration was invented by the original Piasecki Helicopter Corporation, and then renamed Vertol and sold to Boeing in 1960. Columbia acquired the Model 107-II Type Certificate from Boeing in 2006.

The companies are engaged in developing rotary wing aircraft and enabling technologies on behalf of the US Department of Defense and commercial customers. The Model 107 military designation is the CH-46 Sea Knight — nicknamed “Phrog” due to its distinctive amphibian-like appearance.

The CH-46E features a twin-engine, tandem three-bladed folding rotor design powered by General Electric T-58 turboshaft engines, which are mounted in the tail. First launched in 1958, the CH-46 Sea Knight has been a significant part of the U.S. military’s rotorcraft fleet for more than six decades due to its performance, safety, reliability, and maintainability. It is known for its impressive lifting capability with more than 8700lbs useful load at 24,300lbs Gross Weight, and a large cabin with rear ramp access, making it a versatile and powerful asset in various operations, including fire and disaster response.

Columbia Helicopters provides full Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) support for the Model 107-II and CH-46 helicopters, ensuring its reliable operation and maintenance. It holds the commercial FAA type and production certificates for the Columbia Model 234 Chinook and CHI-107-II helicopters and is a Total Logistics Support center for GE T58 and CT58 engines, which power all Model 107 helicopters. CHI has engaged the FAA to obtain certification for the next generation Model 107, the 107-III helicopter.

About Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC)

PiAC is an award-winning developer of vertical lift aircraft. It specializes in the design, fabrication, and flight testing of experimental rotorcraft and unmanned air vehicles and has developed and flown more than 25 advanced VTOL and UAV aircraft to date. Customers include the U.S. Air Force Research Lab and AFWERX; the U.S. Army Futures Command Aviation and Missile Center and Medical R&D Command; NAVAIR; DARPA; and SOCOM; as well as leading OEMs such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Piasecki is a recipient of numerous awards including the Presidential National Medal of Technology, Smithsonian Air & Space Achievement Award, and the prestigious Tibbitts Award for small business innovation from the U.S. Department of Defense. PiAC has been a proud member of the Vertical Flight Society for more than 50 years. For more information, please visit piasecki.com.

About Columbia Helicopters (CHI)

Columbia Helicopters is the global leader in heavy-lift helicopter operations and a trusted expert in maintenance, repair, and overhaul services. Backed by over 65 years of experience, Columbia operates internationally, often conducting operations in remote, austere conditions, providing safe and reliable aircraft and qualified personnel that meet demanding global transport requirements. Columbia leverages its position as the OEM and FAA Type Certificate holder for both the Model 234 Chinook and 107-II helicopters to provide responsive modifications, lifecycle support, and MRO services trusted worldwide by a diverse customer base. For more information, please visit www.colheli.com.

AerialFire Staff
AerialFire Staff
AerialFire Magazine strives to provide you with breaking aerial firefighting industry news and information.

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