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Press release American Eurocopter’s Columbus, Mississippi facility To produce EADS North America’s UH-145 Light Utility Helicopter

Airframes already begun as part of EADS North America’s commitment to the Army’s LUH program

Jackson, Mississippi, January 30, 2006 – EADS North America will produce the UH-145 rotary wing aircraft, the company’s offering for the U.S. Army’s Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), at the American Eurocopter state-of-the-art Columbus, Mississippi facility.

The announcement was made by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, EADS CEO Thomas Enders and Ralph D. Crosby, Jr., Chairman and CEO of EADS North America at a joint press conference held in the Mississippi State Capitol.  Earlier in the day, EADS and Airbus executives, along with federal and state government officials, participated in a groundbreaking ceremony in Mobile, Alabama to begin construction on a new Airbus engineering center. 

Operational since 2004, the Columbus facility currently handles a full range of manufacturing, assembly and upgrade activities for American Eurocopter, which is a leader in the U.S. helicopter marketplace.  A selection of the UH-145 as the U.S. Army’s Light Utility Helicopter will result in significant expansion of the Columbus operation’s size and employment.

In making the announcement, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said, “EADS North America’s decision to produce the UH-145 in Mississippi is further evidence of our industrial growth in high technology fields, and particularly in aerospace technology.  We are proud of Mississippi’s success in attracting leading manufacturers like EADS North America and American Eurocopter to our great state.”

“The Columbus facility is a modern and extremely capable plant that is tailor-made for future UH-145 production,” stated Thomas Enders, CEO of EADS.  “It is staffed by dedicated employees whose skills have been continuously demonstrated since the opening of the facility in October 2004. Since then, they have met the demanding requirements of our civilian and government helicopter customers, including the United States Coast Guard.”

“If the UH-145 is selected by the U.S. Army, we will deliver from our Mississippi facility the most capable, best value solution to meet the full range of LUH mission requirements,” said EADS North America’s Ralph Crosby.  “Award of that contract would create more than 200 new – highly-skilled jobs in Columbus and make it truly a national center of excellence in helicopter manufacture in the United States. EADS’ industrial commitment to America also was demonstrated this morning in Mobile, Alabama as we broke ground on the Mobile Engineering Center.”

 “With more than 300 units expected to be required, this is a very important product for the U.S. Army and it will help ensure that our armed forces remain equipped with the best equipment available,” said Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi.  “This decision also is indicative of this world class company’s confidence in Mississippi’s workforce.  Since coming to Columbus, the employees of Mississippi’s EADS Golden Triangle facility have demonstrated their skill and ability to manufacture high quality aerospace products, and they’ve helped give our state a firmer foothold in the competitive international aerospace industry.  Mississippi looks forward to growing with EADS.”

“As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I’m keenly aware of the LUH’s importance to the Army’s homeland defense and security mission. Mississippians have a long tradition of support for our nation’s military.  We are committed to bring that same enthusiastic support to the LUH program in Columbus,” stated Congressman Roger Wicker, representing the First Congressional District of Mississippi.

Located in Mississippi’s Golden Triangle region, the 85,000-sq-ft. Columbus facility currently builds A-Star AS350 helicopters at a rate of 30 aircraft per year.  In addition, it handles the assembly and customization of other Eurocopter helicopter models, and its advanced metallic production center manufactures components that include aft fuselage sections for all new-production A-Star/Ecureuil helicopters sold worldwide.

In another important function, the Columbus plant is re-engining and upgrading U.S. Coast Guard Eurocopter HH-65 helicopters – converting these maritime patrol and search & rescue aircraft to the improved performance HH-65C version.  It also will assemble, customize and deliver EC120B helicopters ordered by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air Branch, which are to be deployed along the southwest and northern borders of the United States.

Employment at the Columbus facility has grown steadily since the plant’s 2004 opening.  It started with a team of 44 – most of whom were hired locally from the Golden Triangle region- and has grown to a staff of more than 115 today. 

A selection of the UH-145 as the U.S. Army’s Light Utility Helicopter will result in another important expansion for the Columbus plant.  Its covered area will more than double, and as many as 250 new jobs could be created.  The existing site is located adjacent to Golden Triangle Regional Airport, and includes sufficient room for the future growth.

The U.S.-built UH-145 is an American solution based on the multi-mission EC145 rotary-wing aircraft, which has become the helicopter of choice for many U.S. hospitals and medical evacuation providers.  These aircraft are operating daily in the same challenging missions foreseen for the Army’s Light Utility Helicopter, which will be assigned duties that include medical evacuation, passenger and logistics transportation, search and rescue, and homeland security operations.

As the UH-145 prime contractor, EADS North America has assembled a leading industrial team that, in addition to American Eurocopter, includes Sikorsky Aircraft, which will provide its contractor logistics support (CLS) expertise and WestWind Technologies, contributing its experience in quick-reaction helicopter systems integration, engineering support and program management support.
 
Demonstrating its commitment to the UH-145 program, EADS has launched initial production UH-145s at its existing EC145 production line in Germany.  The first two aircraft already have entered assembly.  This production decision will allow EADS North America to meet an Army delivery schedule which calls for the first Light Utility Helicopter to be received later this year.

The UH-145s would be completed and delivered to the Army from the Columbus, Mississippi facility, as the Columbus UH-145 assembly line transitions from light assembly to full-scale production.

“The U.S. Army is looking for a commercial-off-the-shelf solution to fulfill its Light Utility Helicopter mission, and the UH-145 meets or exceeds all of its requirements,” explained Marc Paganini, American Eurocopter President and CEO. “The commercial EC145 from which the UH-145 is derived has been in full-scale production for customers in the United States and around the world since its launch in 2002.  We are fully prepared to support the U.S. Army’s requirements and delivery schedule with a low-risk, best-value solution.”

The UH-145 team has prepared a UH-145 helicopter at its Grand Prairie, Texas, headquarters facility to participate in the demonstration phase of the U.S. Army Light Utility Helicopter competition.

About EADS North America (www.eadsnorthamerica.com)
EADS North America is the North American operations of EADS, the second largest aerospace and defense company in the world. As a leader in all sectors of defense and homeland security, EADS North America and its parent company, EADS, contribute over $6 billion to the U.S. economy annually and support more than 100,000 American jobs through its network of suppliers and services. With 10 operating companies located in 28 cities and 15 states, EADS North America offers a broad array of advanced solutions to its customers in the commercial, homeland security, aerospace and defense markets.

About American Eurocopter (www.eurocopterusa.com)
American Eurocopter is the American subsidiary of Eurocopter, the largest helicopter manufacturer in the world, and EADS North America, the North American operations of EADS, the second largest aerospace and Defense Company in the world. American Eurocopter markets, sells and supports the broadest range of civil and para-public helicopters offered by any manufacturer. The product line represents the most cost-effective, technologically-advanced helicopters, ranging from light single to heavy twin, serving all markets and missions. American Eurocopter’s headquarters and main facility are in Grand Prairie, TX, with a large new factory in Columbus, Mississippi.


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