By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Defence Watch

Dec. 17, 2009

Sea trials for the new Cyclone helicopter will take place before the end of January on the east coast, Defence Watch has been told.

Sources originally said the first of the new maritime helicopters was supposed to arrive at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater in December but now that delivery has slipped slightly.

But Public Works and Government Services spokeswoman Tricia Van der Grient confirmed to Defence Watch the sea trials will be taking place in the new year.

“The first sea trials are expected to take place prior to the end of January 2010,” she said.

“After the sea trials and completion of other flight testing to verify compliance, Sikorsky is required to start the delivery of the Interim Maritime Helicopter (IMH) in November 2010 as per the contract,” she added.

It was almost a year ago that the government announced that the $5 billion project was not going to make its original deadlines and that it would cost taxpayers more than originally expected.

But little additional information has been released on the troubled project, sparking concerns about further cost overruns and delays. The ongoing secrecy has also raised issues about a lack of public accountability concerning the money being spent.

The Defence Department has declined to discuss the project.

Van der Grient also confirmed PWGC does “not grant interviews on this issue.”

Sikorsky has not responded to a Defence Watch request for comment made more than a month ago.

Several months ago Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the first Cyclone maritime helicopter was expected to arrive “soon” at Shearwater but he did not give details.

The first helicopter was originally supposed to be delivered in November 2008 but that never happened.

Because of that delay, Sikorsky faced financial penalties of up to $89 million but that was set aside by the Harper government. Little explanation has been provided on why penalties that could have been imposed were not.

In January 2008 MacKay brought up the penalties after news reports suggested Sikorsky would fail to deliver the aircraft on time. He suggested they would be a deterrent to Sikorsky. “There are penalties and clauses that will kick in,” he warned.

The helicopter arriving for the January sea trials is not being actually accepted by the Canadian Forces; it is still sometime away from being on the Canadian Air Force’s flight line.

The first Cyclone (MH02) was recently painted at West Palm Beach in Canadian Forces colors but with its US/Sikorsky Experimental registration number on the tail.

This paint job is essential as protection against the elements during the sea trials for which the Cyclone is being sent to Canada.

The sea trials should have been completed almost 20 months ago, according to the delivery schedule contracted with Sikorsky in 2004.

Successful completion of the sea trials, followed by development and approval of the ship-helicopter operating limitations (SHOL) for the new helicopter, which will require several months at least, are a MHP contractual obligation that must be met long before Canada accepts delivery of the first aircraft and can begin training its own pilots on the Cyclone, according to sources.

The first 19 helicopters delivered to the Canadian Forces will be designated as Interim Maritime Helicopters (IMH). These IMH aircraft will be fully functional and able to conduct testing and evaluation and training for MH maintenance and air crews, yet will not be fully compliant with the delivery contract, according to DND. Delivery of the first fully capable MH aircraft that meets all contract specifications will be in June 2012, at which point the previous IMH aircraft will then be retrofitted.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


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