Another engine change for Navy choppers

FILE- A Canadian military Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone conducts test flights with HMCS Montreal in Halifax harbour on Thursday, April 1, 2010. Canada's new maritime helicopters will need a second set of engine changes, but it won't add costs beyond an earlier price hike for the delayed fleet of navy choppers, says the manufacturer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

HALIFAX - Canada's new maritime helicopters will need a second set of engine changes, but it won't add costs beyond an earlier price hike for the delayed fleet of navy choppers, says the manufacturer.

A spokeswoman for Sikorsky said this week that the engine redesign for the General Electric engines will produce 10 per cent more horsepower for the fleet of 28 Cyclones.

However, Marianne Heffernan said the engine changes won't add to the $5-billion cost of the helicopters or further delay their delivery, set for 2012, about four years behind schedule.

"GE is developing the new CT7-8A7 engine using their in house funds," she said in an email.

The original Cyclone helicopter, badly needed to replace the navy's aging fleet of Sea Kings, was to be delivered in November 2008.

Following a renegotiation between Ottawa and the U.S.-based aeronautical firm, the deadline for the first fully compliant helicopter was shifted to June 2012.

Sikorsky sent test helicopters to Halifax over the winter.

The company will also provide six "interim helicopters" — with the earlier CT7-8A1 engine — before the 2012 final delivery deadline, said Dan Hunter, program manager for the helicopter program.

He said in an email there are no changes to the schedule renegotiated with the federal government in 2008 due to the changes to the engine.

"The engine will be FAA certified by General Electric by March 2012 and the engine ... will be flight tested and certified by June 2012," he wrote in an email.

The first engine designed by General Electric when Sikorsky bid on the contract was called CT7-8A.

In October 2008, The Canadian Press reported that General Electric was making modifications to the engine because the helicopter was heavier than expected. That engine was called the CT7-8A1.

Now Sikorsky says the engine that will go on the final version of helicopter is called the CT7-8A7 and will have changes to the fuel manifold and fuel nozzles, as well as to nozzles leading into the turbine.

A Defence Department spokeswoman said officials were unavailable for comment.

The Cyclones were announced by the former Liberal government with considerable fanfare as the replacement to the Sea Kings.

Since then, Peter MacKay, the Conservative defence minister, has called the delays the "worse debacle in Canadian procurement history."

He blamed former prime minister Jean Chretien for his decision in 1993 to cancel the purchase of a fleet of Agusta Westland maritime helicopters the Tories had ordered under then-prime minister Brian Mulroney.

A decade later, after numerous redrafting of the original specifications, the Liberal government chose the Sikorsky alternative, despite criticism that the Cyclone was a new and untested design and would be unlikely to meet deadlines.