Kopter Group plans 2021 startup of SH09 production in Lafayette

(Courtesy Kopter Group AG) The SH09

Swiss manufacturer Kopter Group plans to begin assembling helicopters to supply the Western Hemisphere from Lafayette as early as 2021.

Kopter is investing $4.2 million to modify and equip a state-of-the-art helicopter assembly building on Lafayette Regional Airport property beside Evangeline Thruway/U.S. 90. The company will then lease the facility—formerly occupied by Bell Helicopter—from the airport.

The company will create 120 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of more than $55,000, plus benefits.

Headquartered in Switzerland, Kopter Group has designed, engineered and tested a series of prototype helicopters that lay the foundation for production helicopters to be assembled in Lafayette. The vehicles feature composite airframe parts, state-of-the-art avionics, enhanced safety features, room for up to eight passengers, and a payload of up to 6,600 pounds.

Kopter designed the SH09 to suit a variety of aerospace missions: medical evacuation, surveillance and law enforcement, passenger transport and sightseeing, aerial work and utility missions, among others.

“The Lafayette facility will become Kopter’s main hub for the U.S. and the Americas,” Kopter Group CEO Andreas Löwenstein said. “It will include a large variety of activities, such as production, customization and assembly of our helicopters, as well as customer services.”

With industry suppliers that include Kaman (composite parts), Garmin (avionics), Parker Aerospace (hydraulic pumps), Collins Aerospace (external lighting) and Honeywell (turboshaft engine), Kopter’s SH09 helicopters ultimately will be assembled in Lafayette with U.S.-sourced components representing at least 50% of the aircraft value.

LED began formal discussions about the project with Kopter in October 2018. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered the company incentives that include a pair of performance-based grants—one of $1.2 million for facility modifications, payable at $200,000 in 2019 and $1 million in 2020; and one of $1.3 million for lease support, payable in five annual installments from 2020 through 2024. Kopter will lease the state-funded facility from the Lafayette Airport Commission.

At its 14.7-acre Lafayette Regional Airport site, Kopter will begin hiring later this year, with formal helicopter assembly activity and deliveries scheduled to begin in 2021. Production will ramp up to an anticipated annual volume of 100 helicopters by 2025.