Region Adjusts to Changes in the Helicopter Industry

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Sikorsky Aircraft Vista Today Chester County Daily Business News
Sikorsky's assembly plant in Coatesville.

According to a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the helicopter industry has been slowing down in the past year, causing plant heavy Southeastern Pennsylvania to make readjustments along with it.

Owners of local business in Coatesville have also been affected by the actual and planned layoff of 720 employees over the summer by Sikorsky, started prior to the completion of the much talked $9 billion buy-out by Lockheed Martin.

Mark Madanat, the owner of Little Anthony’s Pizza in Coatesville reports “Thirty percent of the lunch crowd lost,” as compared to June, and two doors down, John Keesey has seen business in his shop, Keesey’s Airport Automotive, go down to barely a third of what it used to be.

Sikorsky was awarded a six helicopter contract for the President's Marine One fleet in 2014.
Sikorsky was awarded a six helicopter contract for the President’s Marine One fleet in 2014.

The helicopter industry has been the backbone of many Pennsylvania communities, with Boeing being the largest employer in Delaware County with 4,700 workers, and Sikorsky’s plant being the 20th largest in Chester County employing 1,060 prior to layoffs.

Many industry experts are pointing out that production has been exceptionally high as the country was involved in two wars and is now correcting to more normal levels. However, several other factors including the falling oil prices and cuts in federal spending have hurt the industry and are causing the titans of aerospace to adapt to the ever changing market conditions.

Boeing’s local facility, which primarily caters to military contracts, has been hit by rotorcraft shipments falling by 11 percent worldwide in the first half of this year compared to last year.

On the positive side, a hybrid plane and helicopter the AW609, which is similar to Boeing’s V-22 Osprey, is being made for the civilian market by AgustaWestland in Northeast Philadelphia. This should create a hundred new jobs to fill 60 already placed orders for the aircraft, with more orders expected. This comes as the company shifts strategy from oil and gas customers to high-end civilian customers.

Gary Smith, CEO and President of the CCEDC.

Boeing also managed to get two multiyear U.S. military contracts for $10 billion in 2013 to build a minimum of 155 Chinooks and 101 Ospreys through 2019. In its deals abroad the company will be delivering five V-22s to Japan, while conducting negotiations with Brazil for another deal.

Despite the sizable workforce cuts, company’s officials say that Sikorsky is committed to Coatesville.

“We’ve been assured and reassured they are making some adjustments,” stated Gary Smith, president of the Chester County Economic Development Council.

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