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Saturday, January 1, 2005

Rotorcraft Report:  Coast Guard Vows to Stick to Re-Engining Schedule

MILITARY

Coast Guard Vows to Stick to Re-Engining Schedule

The U.S. Coast Guard expects to complete re-engining its HH-65 fleet with Turbomeca Arriel 2C2s by July 2006 despite a report by the U.S. Homeland Security Dept.'s inspector general that the project already is behind schedules and its delays could jeopardize maintenance of other Coast Guard aircraft.

Lt. Ron Mench of the U.S. Coast Guard told Rotor & Wing the re-engining project has a congressional mandate to complete re-engining of 84 of 95 HH-65s by mid-2006, and its funding is based on that schedule. Mench said the program "has the highest priority," and the Coast Guard expects to meet the deadline.

The inspector general reported that a review of the re-engining project in September 2004 found that the Coast Guard and its lead contractor, Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS), had not yet agreed to contract terms with Turbomeca and Eurocopter, the aircraft manufacturer, on the re-engining. ICGS is the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman that is managing the service's Deepwater modernization program.

"Extended negotiations," the IG's report noted, have "postponed implementation of the re-engining project by several months," despite the fact that the Coast Guard had said that there was "an urgent and compelling need" for the re-engining "to mitigate safety and operational risks with the aircraft.

The IG also said the latest ICGS proposal it had reviewed on the project didn't call for delivering the Coast Guard's desired 84 operational re-engined HH-65s until June 2007--11 months after the deadline set by the service's commandant. That proposal also was more costly the Coast Guard's own estimate of doing the re-engining work entirely in house at its Aircraft Repair and Supply Center in Elizabeth City, N.C.

The Coast Guard is considering having ICGs subcontract with American Eurocopter to open another HH-65 re-engining line at American Eurocopter's new production facility in Columbus, Miss. Current plans call for American Eurocopter to provide the re-engining kits for the HH-95s, while Turbomeca USA will provide the Arriel 2C2 engines.

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