Helicopters have always fascinated people since the first conception. Recorded drawings illustrate the Chinese flying top in 1100. In 1483, Leonardo Davinci drew a design known as the helical air screw with the same dream to invent a vertical flying machine. Finally, the VS-300 created by Igor Sikorsky was launched in Stratford, CT in 1939.
Today, modern helicopters are making extraordinary improvements with technologies focused on speed, range, safety, and fuel efficiency.
Following is a brief overview of five important helicopter manufacturers. To understand the competitive nature of these companies, we will discuss their background and their products.
Airbus Helicopters began with the merger in 1992 of two German companies - Messerschmitt and Bleriot, the company was originally known as Eurocopter.
Known for its innovative technology, Airbus Helicopters is the world leader of helicopters for commercial and military purposes. They are the largest aerospace and defense conglomerate based in Europe. Airbus Helicopters has developed more than two hundred helicopter models and more than nine hundred helicopter engines. They hold 48% of the global helicopter market share for both military and civilian models. Their European and American models have received awards for safety and performance, including the 2014 World Helicopter Award.
Airbus has four main manufacturing sites in Europe and thirty-five around the world. The company's principal production facility is at the Marseilles Marignane Airport. In India, the company has launched a pilot training facility and is developing a 5-bladed model.
In 1960 Boeing Helicopters acquired the Vertol Corporation and renamed it Boeing Vertol. At the time, they were the world's largest independent helicopter manufacturer known for innovations such as the twin rotor. Vertol is an abbreviation for vertical take-off and landing.
Today, Boeing’s Vertical Lift division continuously evolves, manufacturing a dozen helicopter models that support global military operations. For more than a century, Boeing Helicopters has been trusted by the armed forces of over twenty nations. Today, the headquarters and primary rotorcraft factory is in Ridley Park Pennsylvania. In 1982 the company began producing the Apache Attack Helicopters in Mesa Arizona.
The United States military contracts with Boeing Helicopters to support defense forces all over the world. In June 2020, Boeing Helicopters was awarded a contract to build 24-AH-64E Apache helicopters for the Moroccan Air Force. These helicopters are being produced through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process.
Lockheed Martin - Sikorsky
The name Sikorsky is well recognized as the pioneer or inventor of the modern-day helicopter. What many people don’t know is that Lockheed Martin bought the Sikorsky company in 2015 for nine billion dollars.
There are many fascinating facts about the Lockheed Martin company. Headquartered in Bethesda MD, they are the world’s largest global company engaged in military support, security, and aerospace technologies. The company employs 114,000 people worldwide. In 1995 Lockheed Martin merged two aerospace companies: Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta Corp. The merger created a company capable of meeting the needs of the U.S. armed forces by leveraging advanced technology and digital build process.
The Sikorsky SR22 helicopters boast seven thousand shaft horsepower. The engines in the SR22 helicopters provide a sixty percent increase in power while reducing the number of parts. SR22 helicopters feature glass cockpits and fly-by-wire digital engine controls. The helicopters' fuselage is constructed of composite materials, enabling them to operate in extreme conditions.
The US Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to build nine CH-53K heavy lift helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps. The initial helicopters will be delivered in 2025 as part of a contract comprising two hundred units. These CH-53K units will be built at the Sikorsky's Stratford, Connecticut headquarters.
Founded in 1960, Bell Textron is headquartered in Fort Worth Texas. Bell is a subsidiary of the global company, Textron, Inc. They manufacture military rotorcraft in Fort Worth, and Amarillo, Texas, and their commercial helicopters are manufactured in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada.
Bell has a long history in the Asia-Pacific region. Bell has been ranked the number one customer support company by Professional Pilot magazine for twenty-two consecutive years. Its fourteen customer service facilities are evidence of its strong commitment to its products and aftermarket support. It is no wonder that Bell has been a global leader in helicopter production for more than half a century.
Founded in 1902, Leonardo Helicopters is an Italian company that designs, manufactures, and supports a wide range of helicopters. Its products serve a variety of purposes in both private and government markets, including passenger transportation, rescue services, law enforcement, oil, and mining, VIP, and aerial survey. Leonardo develops helicopters for harsh weather conditions.
The company's range of products includes the AW109, AW139, AW169, and AW189, and military drones. Its Agusta helicopters are the most popular models, with a worldwide customer base. Leonardo also manufactures the Eurofighter Typhoon, a multi-role fighter, which is manufactured in collaboration with Airbus and BAE Systems. It is currently used by the Saudi Arabian military in its attacks in Yemen over the past six years. The company boasts a four-decade partnership with Saudi Arabia, including the provision of Tornado combat aircraft and naval systems.