Sikorsky is Acquiring Keystone

Keystone Ranger Holdings Inc., a helicopter operations, maintenance and modification company in the suburbs of Philadelphia, has been acquired by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.

The deal was announced yesterday to employees gathered in a hangar at Keystone's new Coatesville operation by Steve Townes, chief executive officer of Keystone Ranger and an aerospace entrepreneur, and Sikorsky president Steve Finger.

Keystone Ranger's Keystone Helicopter Corp. unit will continue its move from West Chester to new and larger quarters in Coatesville, expected to be completed early next year, Rick Hinkle, vice president for sales and marketing, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The new facility, called "Keystone Heliplex," is next to the Chester County Airport off the Route 30 Bypass. The initial phase is a 173,000-square-foot complex of buildings that Keystone describes as among the "largest and most technically advanced commercial rotorcraft depots in the country."

Sikorsky was a pioneer in development of helicopters. Now a unit of United Technologies Corp., of Hartford, Conn., it is a major manufacturer of large commercial and military helicopters, and had 2004 revenue of $2.5 billion.

Keystone will continue to do maintenance, overhaul, modification and repair of Sikorsky and other helicopter brands, including Bell, Eurocopter, MD Helicopter and Agusta, Hinkle said.

Keystone also will continue to operate its fleet of 35 twin-engine medical helicopters serving hospitals throughout the northeastern United States.

In addition, it adapts helicopters from many manufacturers to specific missions. This includes adding luxury interiors for corporate aircraft, special interiors and gear for medical and law-enforcement uses, and modifications needed to serve off-shore oil rigs.

"At any given time, we have 15 to 20 helicopters in the hangar being worked on," Hinkle said. "Right now, we are doing work on helicopters that will be delivered to China and Jakarta."

Helicopters from throughout the northeastern United States fly to the Keystone facility for routine maintenance.

"Becoming part of the Sikorsky family opens tremendous opportunities for expansion," Hinkle said.

Former Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, attended the announcement ceremony. "This announcement is yet another sign of our regional economy's forward momentum... . Ultimately, this will mean more jobs for Greater Philadelphia," Schweiker said.

Finger said in a statement that the acquisition allowed Sikorsky, based in Stratford, Conn., to meet a growing demand for highly customized commercial rotary-wing aircraft.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. If approved by federal regulatory authorities, the transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter, Sikorsky said in a statement.

Keystone's subsidiary, Composite Technology Inc., of Grand Prairie, Texas, was part of the deal. Keystone and CTI had sales in 2004 of $100 million and about 650 employees, 400 of them at its suburban Philadelphia operations.

Keystone was founded in 1953 by Peter Wright, a Navy dive bomber pilot who flew with Gen. Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers. The Wright family built the company into one of the nation's largest helicopter services companies, then sold it in 2002 for an undisclosed price to Keystone Ranger Holdings Inc.

The firm will continue to operate under the Keystone name.

Philadelphia Inquirer

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