Sikorsky gets contract to build helicopter fleet for U.S. president

Sikorsky Aircraft will build the new helicopter fleet for the American president.

The U.S. Defense Department announced it has awarded Stratford-based Sikorsky a contract valued at $1.2 billion for six test aircraft, and 21 helicopters overall, with most of the work to be done in Connecticut.

“Sikorsky has long been synonymous with Marine One, the presidential helicopter,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, whose district includes a part of Shelton as well as all of Stratford.

“Every president since Eisenhower has flown in a Sikorsky, made right in Connecticut,” DeLauro said.

“I am thrilled to see this contract come back to Stratford, where it has always belonged and where it should have gone in the first place. Congratulations to the dedicated men and women who make the best helicopters in the world," she said.

Dwight Eisenhower served as president from 1953 to 1961.

Malloy: ‘A long tradition’

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also praised the Defense Department decision.

“Connecticut is proud of our long tradition as a leading producer of high quality products for our aerospace and national defense supply chain,” Malloy said.

“At a time when defense budgets are being significantly reduced, Connecticut firms continue to earn the major contracts because they are building the right things at the right time — high-quality products specifically called for in the Pentagon’s national security strategy,” he said.

Many Shelton residents work at Sikorsky

United Technologies Corp. (UTC) is the state’s largest employer with 22,200 workers, including many at the Sikorsky Aircraft plant in Stratford on Route 110, just south of the Shelton border.

The Sikorsky plant in Stratford has about 6,900 employees, while a smaller Sikorsky facility in Trumbull has 278 employees.

According to the governor’s office, 808 Shelton residents work for UTC and 60 Shelton companies are suppliers to the company.

It appears Shelton has more UTC employees than any other town near the large Sikorsky plant in Stratford, including Stratford itself.

New contract replaces ‘failed’ one

The winning Marine One bid replaces the failed VH-71 program, which was plagued by excessive cost overruns and schedule delays. That contract was awarded in 2005 and based the new presidential helicopter on the EH-101, a helicopter produced by the joint British-Italian venture of AugustaWestland.

The Defense Department ultimately decided to end the program and to re-bid the contract, which DeLauro had long called for, according to a release from her office.

A Sikorsky/Lockheed team now has been selected to build Marine One and the related fleet.

'Good-paying jobs will remain in the state'

Malloy said the new presidential helicopter contract, combined with a recent agreement between the state and UTC — parent company of Sikorsky — to keep Sikorsky and UTC in Connecticut for years to come means good-paying jobs with good benefits will remain in the state.

“I want to thank our congressional delegation for their continued support of Connecticut’s manufacturers,” the governor said.

The state legislature, at Malloy’s urging, passed legislation that supports an agreement the state reached with UTC under which the company will invest up to $500 million to upgrade and expand its aerospace research and development and manufacturing facilities during the next five years.

During the same time period, UTC expects to invest up to $4.5 billion in research and other capital expenditures in the state, impacting more than 75,000 jobs in the state. With the agreement, UTC has committed to keeping the Sikorsky headquarters in Connecticut for at least five years.