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After Change, Sikorsky Flies High

September 28, 1998

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) _ As the Cold War ground to a halt and defense spending dropped, Sikorsky Aircraft’s sales went into a tailspin and the company was forced to diversify.

Now, after a decade of promoting its S-76C+ luxury helicopter, Sikorsky has put more heads of state than warriors on its customer list.

The shift in strategy has paid off. More than half of the company’s sales are now in the international market. The overseas deals have brought the company’s sales to $1.6 billion _ on par with its 1988 sales.

As Sikorsky celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the company finds itself doing business with the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, who signed a 10-year lease in February for the S-76C+.

Other notable high fliers who choose Sikorsky are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, New York Gov. George Pataki and every U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Twenty-three foreign countries, from the Middle East to the Far East to Canada, now own choppers made by Sikorsky, a division of Hartford-based United Technologies Corp.

``With the opportunity the international market gives us, we intend to reach $2 billion in sales, possibly within the next two years,″ said Gina McAllister, director of Sikorsky communications.

Industry analysts credit Sikorsky’s bright future to Gene Buckley, its chief executive officer and president.

Described as a keen strategist and planner, Buckley recognized that to survive in the 1990s and beyond, Sikorsky would have to emphasize its helicopters for civilian and commercial use both in this country and abroad.

Sikorsky also has streamlined its operations and is checking out new markets, said Bill Dane, a senior aerospace analyst at Forecast International in Newtown.

One of those new markets involves helicopter maintenance. In July, Sikorsky spent $72 million to purchase Orange-based Helicopter Support Inc., a company that distributes, overhauls, manufactures and ships helicopter parts and components for the worldwide civilian helicopter market.

But the company is far from losing its foothold in military sales. Sikorsky is developing the Comanche RAH-66, a helicopter designed to distinguish between friend and foe and cut the risk of friendly fire.

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