Maneuverability, capacity, speed — all the elements that make a helicopter like the UH-60 Blackhawk an excellent choice for military service seem to make it the right choice for VVIP transport as well. Nimble and agile, the Blackhawk is able to perform in a wide variety of conditions, and the generous interior has room for 11 fully equipped infantry soldiers. The form and function that make it perfect for a fight also make the Blackhawk a perfect fit for a VIP seeking an efficient and comfortable way to travel.
“The Blackhawk airframe meets both the security and tactical needs of these clients, and Sabreliner’s custom interiors provide the level of quality and luxury expected by this audience,” says Tracy Ogle, Sabreliner Corporation’s vice president of helicopter services.
Veterans serving together
Sabreliner Corporation of St. Louis, MO, and the Blackhawk are both veterans with long histories of service. When Sabreliner was asked to turn Blackhawk helicopters into head-of-state aircraft, it embraced the challenge. The project was appropriate for the company whose own roots were in the transformation of the Air Force T-39 military trainer into the Sabreliner fleet of business jets. Like the Blackhawk, the T-39 was built to military specifications for strength, performance, and flying qualities, including the ability to stand up to 4G maneuvers. Those same high standards were incorporated into the world’s first twin-engine business jet, the Sabreliner Model 40. Sabreliner ultimately built more than 400 business jets, and it has recently completed 11 Blackhawk helicopter VIP interiors for both the United States and allied nations.
Additionally, Sabreliner has performed numerous 500-hour phase inspections on the Blackhawks. The inspection involves the complete teardown of the aircraft including the removal of all components and then detailed inspection of flight critical components is conducted. Components are repaired, replaced, or reinstalled as needed. The aircraft then undergoes rigging checks, electrical/avionics checkouts, and a flight test.
“Findings during the inspection largely depend on the environment the aircraft is operated in,” says Ogle. “But it’s a very solid airframe.”
Per Sikorsky, the Blackhawk’s OEM, the UH-60M helicopter culminates more than 30 years of technological advancement, improved performance, and real-world experience. The U.S. Army began using the aircraft in 1979 as a replacement for the UH-1 Huey to provide air assault, general support, aeromedical evacuation, command and control, and special operations support for combat and support operations. The aircraft’s critical components and systems are armored or redundant, and its airframe is designed to progressively crush on impact to protect the crew and passengers.
From warship to cruise ship
The functionality of the Blackhawk helicopter along with Sabreliner’s engineering, interior design, and fabrication expertise have proved to be a winning combination for clients seeking a helicopter with a VVIP configuration.
Earlier last year, Sabreliner delivered two highly modified UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters to the Royal Jordanian Air Force for use by Jordan’s royal family. The aircraft feature a Sabreliner-developed executive entry system and complete cabin entertainment systems. The two Jordanian aircraft incorporate cabin systems that display moving map, iPod content, and DVDs on both individual and 17-inch cabin-mounted monitors. An iridium phone system allows conference calling.
The Jordanian aircraft also feature a Sabreliner-developed modification used in all of its Blackhawk completions — a frame-load isolation design which allows the combat-proven helicopters to be converted for VVIP use. The proprietary isolation system restricts movement in the forward/aft and left/right axis while allowing no vertical loads, increasing airframe life.
In addition to manufacturing and installing a new VIP interior, the aircraft's fuselage underwent an extensive modification including the installation of Sabreliner's patented Clam Shell Door.
This aircraft is used for governmental VIP transport; including the Bolivian President, Vice President, and all ministers of the government.