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June 01, 2023

Former Sikorsky helicopter plant in Coatesville acquired by Delco aircraft manufacturer Piasecki

The facility will be used to develop a zero-emission rotorcraft that runs on a hydrogen fuel cell

Business Manufacturing
Piasecki Main Helicopter Provided Image/Piasecki Aircraft Corp.

Piasecki Aircraft Corp. will turn the former Lockheed Martin Sikorsky helicopter plant in Coatesville into a research and development center.

Delaware County-based Piasecki Aircraft Corp. will take over Lockheed Martin's former Sikorsky helicopter plant in Coatesville, with plans to transform the space into a research and development facility that will employ about 400 workers.

The plant at 110 E. Stewart Huston Drive closed last year after Lockheed Martin said it could not secure enough work to keep it running. Piasecki, headquartered in Essington, purchased the 216,800-square-foot complex in March for $10.5 million. The 27-acre property will house three buildings for research and development, a manufacturing center, paint and finishing facilities and a flight testing area. The facility is expected to welcome its first employees this fall and be fully staffed by 2028. The company's Essington site will continue operations.

Planned projects include development of the world's first zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell rotorcraft, Piasecki's PA-890 helicopter. Piasecki also plans to develop unmanned aircraft and a battery-powered tilt rotor, according to officials.

Under Lockheed Martin, the plant completed work for Sikorsky’s S-92 and S-76D helicopters, as well as the VH-92 aircraft more commonly known as Marine One.

Piasecki was founded 80 years ago by Frank Piasecki and has been contracted by the U.S. military for a range of projects, including unmanned aerial vehicle systems and naval air systems. Its PV-2 model, first flown in 1943, was among the first successful helicopters developed in the U.S.

"We chose to expand our development capabilities in the Delaware Valley because of its deep roots within the helicopter industry, its highly talented workforce and its robust supplier network," John Piasecki, the company's CEO, said at a ribbon-cutting event Wednesday.

Piasecki Hydrogen HelicopterProvided Image/Piasecki Aircraft Corp.

The rendering above shows Piasecki's PA-890 hydrogen-electric fuel cell helicopter

Piasecki anticipates that the PA-890 helicopter will cut operating costs in half compared to helicopters with carbon-fueled engines, but sold at the same price.

Last year's closure of the Sikorsky facility had been viewed as a setback for the aviation industry in the Philadelphia region. Lockheed Martin originally planned to close it in 2019 but kept it running amid public pressure from former President Donald Trump and other elected officials.

Other helicopters plants in the area include Boeing's military plant in Ridley Park and the Leonardo factory in Northeast Philadelphia.

"We spent the past 12 months working to secure this facility as a future home for Piasecki's expansion and the research and development of vertical lift technologies — and the transition of those technologies into practical products that can be used and helpful," Piasecki said.