Sikorsky Seeks Sales For Fixed-Wing PZL M28
John Croft | Aviation Week & Space Technology

When Sikorsky bought the Polish aerospace structures company, PZL Mielec, in 2007 the main focus was to produce helicopter structures and the S70i International Black Hawk helicopter. Included with the purchase was an odd fit for a helicopter manufacturer: PZL’s fixed-wing M28, a rugged twin-engine turboprop. Sikorsky’s new owner, Lockheed Martin, has only now begun to market it in earnest in the regions where it may sell the best.

PZL began producing the latest generation of the M28 in Mielec, Poland, in 1993, and since then the Sikorsky purchase has been delivering about 10 aircraft per year. Customers include the governments of Indonesia, Jordan, Poland, Venezuela, Vietnam, the U.S. and several commercial operators.

“People come to our chalet, they see printed material and pictures of the M28,” says Adam Schierholz, Sikorsky’s business development regional executive for Latin America, of recent military shows in South America. “They expect to see Black Hawks and S-92s and S-76s. When they see the M28, they are surprised and they’re interested.”

Schierholz tackled the information vacuum by getting company approval for an M28 Latin American tour. One-and-a-half years in the making, the tour launched in March and finished in May after visiting seven Caribbean and Latin American countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico. A PZL crew flew the aircraft to North America from Poland in late February, with marketing stops in several U.S. cities, including Dallas-Fort Worth, where Aviation Week interviewed the team and took a short demonstration flight. In all, the Polish-registered aircraft (SP-DGW) made 50 flights and hosted 676 visitors during the tour, according to Lockheed Martin.

“On a scale from 1-10, I expected interest in this region to be a 10,” says Schierholz. “It was a 15.” He says there has been at least one request for proposal submitted from potential military, government or civilian customers in each country visited, some for multiple aircraft. The split between commercial and military applications is 50/50, he says. The two “most-likely” procurements—Schierholz would not say which countries are involved—have been pushed back into 2018 for “budgetary reasons,” he says. “The others don’t have approved budgets yet, but are enthusiastic and seeking money to procure the aircraft,” says Schierholz. He predicts “2018 will be a big year for the M28.”

Sikorsky says a major selling point for Latin America and the Caribbean is the utility of the cabin, which can be ordered in eight different versions. Included is a 19-passenger airline configuration with 2-1 seating and an underbelly luggage pod; a cargo version; a combination passenger and cargo (combi); a VIP; a medevac configuration for six litters and seven passenger seats; a search-and-rescue version; a 17-seat paratrooper drop version and an 18-passenger utility cabin. The cargo configuration has an option for a hand-cranked cargo hoist capable of lifting 1,540 lb. Sikorsky is considering a firefighting version of the M28 based on a request from Chile, a country the aircraft did not visit on the tour.

“The most common use is the combi version,” says Ingmar Wyczalek, PZL’s regional sales manager for North and South America. “It’s a very versatile aircraft for unprepared strips in remote areas at high altitudes and high temperatures,” he says, noting that the aircraft can be reconfigured between cargo and passenger operations with two people in as little as 7 min.

How the interest will convert into actual orders and dollars is now the big question. Cost of the aircraft is $6.5-7 million, depending on the configuration.

For airlines, the interest to date has been muted. According to Aviation Week’s Fleets database, there are only five An-28s (the previous-generation aircraft built by PZL under license from Antonov) in service, all in Russia and all more than 25 years old. A different database shows as many as 17 An-28 used by airlines. The Caribbean destinations in the tour were meant in part to interest interisland carriers that could benefit from the short-field performance. Schierholz says airlines serving Trinidad and Tobago could use an aircraft “better suited for island hopping,” and that there were similar interests in Colombia.

At a maximum weight of 16,534 lb. the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-powered M28 can take off in 1,800 ft., and PZL has demonstrated landing distances as short as 512 ft., one-third the certification landing distance of 1,640 ft. Maximum payload is 5,070 lb. The aircraft has a very low stall speed—64 kt.—thanks to aerodynamically operated leading edge slats that automatically deploy at speeds approaching the stall.

Competitors include the Viking Air Twin Otter, the Let 410 and the Dornier 228. One big advantage for Sikorsky in the utility role, however, is the M28’s inward opening rear doors that allow for cargo drops and other utility operations from the back of the aircraft (which also doubles as the passenger entry and exit).

Business & Commercial Aviation’s (BCA) chief evaluation pilot, Fred George, flight tested the M28, then known as the Skytruck, in 2005. “The Skytruck is one of the only Part 23 Commuter Category aircraft of which we know that can depart a 2,000-ft. runway at maximum takeoff weight, assuming standard day conditions,” wrote George. A Florida-based company—Skytruck at the time—was the M28 distributor for the Americas, although PZL terminated the relationship in March 2005.

“The aircraft’s payload capacity is just as impressive,” George continued. “With full fuel, it can carry a 2,500-lb. payload more than 700 nm and land with 100-nm National Business Aviation Association instrument flight rules reserves. Or, it can tote a 5,000-lb. payload more than 100 nm and land with the same reserves.”

The Latin America demo tour aircraft was meant to show off vehicle performance and the flexibility of the interiors. The aircraft was equipped with seven airline seats at the front of the cabin (which is about the size of the S-92 cabin), three paratrooper seats in the rear, two litters and a cargo hoist. “We did that purposefully to show all variants during the tour,” says Kate Grammer, Sikorsky’s business acquisition manager for Brazil and the Caribbean. “It’s not a typical outfitting.”

To read full story please visit Aviation Week: http://aviationweek.com/business-aviation/sikorsky-seeks-sales-fixed-wing-pzl-m28
Pictures come from PZL Mielec.