Blackhawk Up for a Few More Years Yet

Blackhawk Up for a Few More Years Yet

An Australian Blackhawk work platform maker is spreading its wings beyond the Pacific, with serious interest from the helicopter’s country of origin: the US.

Having replaced the iconic Vietnam War-era Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, the Sikorsky Blackhawk has become one of the world’s most recognisable of rotary aircrafts.

Developed in the early 1970s and put into service a few years later, this helicopter has adapted to the changing needs of defence forces, resulting in hundreds of incremental model variations, including a Navy cousin, the Seahawk.

The chopper has seen success all around the world, including Australia. The commissioning of the Blackhawk – locally-built by Hawker de Havilland under licence from Sikorsky – by the Australian Army has meant many years of employing auxiliary skills and trades, benefitting businesses in the civilian sector, too.

One of the things that each new piece of machinery, transport vehicle or aircraft needs is new ground support infrastructure. And a lot of it has to be custom-made, especially when it comes to access equipment.

With the need to comply with OH&S regulations seeping into the defence forces there is a need for helicopter maintenance stands that get technicians as close as is safely possible to the aircraft’s many points of servicing.

Looking Forward

With the Blackhawk to be eventually superseded by newer aircraft – such as the Australian Army’s new MRH-90 – in the coming years, the Blackhawk will still be used daily as a MEDEVAC, general utility helicopter and for disaster assistance across Australia and in international combat or relief zones. Consequently, the maintenance tasks will also go on.

Meanwhile in the US, Sikorsky (now owned by the iconic Lockheed Martin Corp) has just signed a massive maintenance deal with the US Army, ensuring that the aircraft will stay up to date for full-capacity deployment for at least another fifteen years.

This means even more ground support equipment, and the need for someone to manufacture it to fit newly-configured Blackhawks until the MRH-90 completely takes over. This also means that in Australia, custom work platform makers are bidding to fulfil this revived market, both domestically and overseas. Companies like SafeSmart Access, headquartered in Sydney, are already leveraging on their past experience with this aircraft, and are not very far away from working for a very big client in Sikorsky, to help fulfil their obligations to the US Army.

As a custom builder of ground support access equipment, SafeSmart have also built platforms for the New Zealand Navy’s Super Seasprite helicopter, as well as many other rotary and fixed wing aircraft.

So with news of the eventual demise of the Blackhawk locally, comes the irony of expanded opportunities elsewhere.

SafeSmart say they are looking forward to working with such an iconic aviation client, and being part of making sure that the legendary Blackhawk keeps up its service to its fullest potential until its eventual decommissioning in Australia.

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