Sikorsky Aircraft’s Fleet Technical Support - Nobody Calls To Just Say Hi!

For many of us, helicopter aviation is a 24/7/365 job. In today’s global economy, there are always commercial helicopters flying a mission somewhere in the world and to support that mission, maintenance is always the order of the day. Sometimes the helicopter maintenance professional needs some information to do the task at hand that is beyond their reach. They need assistance in obtaining additional technical data, or just where to find more information about what they are trying to do. Just about every company that manufactures equipment for helicopters has a department to provide that assistance. We are all familiar with the words “product support” or “customer support” or the “help desk,” but in reality, just what do those words mean? I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Don Rozanski, Manager of Sikorsky Aerospace Services’ (SAS) Fleet Technical Services Group Help Desk, and talk with him and his team about who they are and what they do. 

Getting started

HeliMx – Good morning, Don. Since I know we are not at Sikorsky’s main facility in Stratford, CT, where are we, and is this the only location for you and your team?

Rozanski – Good morning, Fred. We are located in a new building in Trumbull, CT, which is a few miles from the main facility in Stratford. This is our primary location, but we also have individuals located in upstate New York and Puerto Rico. 

HeliMx – Maybe a good place to start, Don, is to tell our readers what Fleet Technical Services is all about.

Rozanski – Fleet Technical Services (FTS) is comprised of SAS’s service engineering group and SAS’ help desk. The help desk is a 24/7 service that allows our customers to access in-person technical assistance on any day, at any time. Our help desk staff has an excellent general understanding of our aircraft systems for all our models, including the S-61, S-70, S-76, S-92 and our light helicopter product lines. They can address many questions when an inquiry arises, but work closely in conjunction with the SAS service engineering group when more in-depth technical assistance is needed. SAS’ service engineering group consists of systems experts who provide in-depth analysis in the specialty areas comprising aerostructures, avionics/electrical, hydraulics/flight controls, propulsion and rotors/transmissions. Our 18-member FTS team has combined helicopter maintenance, manufacturing and design experience in excess of 350 years. They are ready to assist our customers with technical services designed to promote the safe and efficient operation of our products throughout their long life cycles. Those services include assistance in troubleshooting complex aircraft systems, interpretation of technical publications or inspection requirements, structural repair designs, modifications and upgrades, and any other technical service required to support daily aircraft operations or longer-term requirements.

Our mission statement is that “We provide on-time technical solutions to our customers that ensure the airworthiness of their aircraft and safety of their operations and personnel every time.”

HeliMx – What about propulsion? Somebody’s got an S-76 helicopter and that means Turbomeca engines. Will your team work the problem?

Rozanski – It depends if it is a pure propulsion issue or if it is an interface issue. Sometimes it’s a teaming thing, and actually Dave Yarson on our team was the design lead on the Turbomeca application to the S-76 helicopter. He went from doing the design work for the interface to being our propulsion lead here. We have a huge fleet of Turbomeca-powered aircraft. Dave has been back and forth to France many times, and ensures our team works in conjunction with the Turbomeca team to get an answer to the question.

Now we’re getting close to fielding S-76D helicopters, and those are going to use Pratt & Whitney engines. We’ve had Pratt engines on our aircraft before. We had Pratt PT-6s on the S-76B helicopters. We’ve got long-standing relationships with some of the team from the old Pratt days. Those relationships and the type of issue determine whether we work in conjunction with the engine OEM, or the OEM will take the lead. 

We also have this huge database that our team has accumulated over 10 years. Many of the questions that our customers ask us have already been researched before so we have the ability to resolve their issues very quickly.

HeliMx – What is the best thing customers can do to help themselves before they call you with a problem?

Rozanski – They should gather as much specific information as they possibly can so we can better understand the nature of the problem. Pictures and dimensions help, because some of the stuff is “have a crack, can it be repaired?” We need to know the nature of the problem, its location and the helicopter model we’re talking about. We support many models. For us to respond effectively and quickly, it is in the customer’s best interest to provide as much information as possible when first contacting us.

HeliMx – In our age of digital photography, do you find a lot of pictures being sent compared to the old days? 

Rozanski – Yes, especially when it comes to structural repair. Sometimes, however, the photos are extreme close-ups so we’re not sure what we’re looking at. It is very helpful to show us where you focused on the aircraft — in the tail cone or in the nose, for instance. Our field service reps have a checklist of things the customer should give us so when the reps reach back to us we have good descriptions and specifics such as model and part numbers.

The Internet

HeliMx – When the customer takes delivery of a new helicopter from Sikorsky, they get a set of publications and whether it’s paper or electronic, is there any listed place they can look for technical support information? In other words, how do they know that the help desk exists and how to find you?

Rozanski – Two ways. Their first point of contact should be the field service rep. SAS prides itself on the localized support services our FSRs can provide. Our FSRs let our customers know who they can reach if they are unavailable. If the FSR is unavailable we can also be found on the Web.

HeliMx – But prior to delivery …

Rozanski – There’s a formal handoff when we sell an aircraft. SAS has a representative in Coatesville, PA, and the customer is given his set of publications and told “Here’s your field rep,” etc. Sometimes a field rep may even take that first flight with the customer! 

HeliMx – We mentioned the field service reps. Sometimes the people taking delivery of the aircraft for the end user are not the people that are maintaining the aircraft. That information doesn’t get passed on. You are playing such an important role, how do your customers even know you exist? That’s where I’m coming from. How do you blow your horn? How do you say “Hey guys, if you need us, this is how you can contact us?”

Rozanski – Easily, through our Web site. Our view and experience is that in today’s digital age if you have a question, you Google it. 

The A-Ha Moment

HeliMx – Are there any tips or suggestions that you’d like to tell the customers that will help them take better care of the aircraft and to resolve problems as painlessly as possible?

Rozanski – Our FSRs are usually the first point of contact and are a good source of information. Our customers could also refer to the manual, if they so desire. Doing that goes a long way toward resolving the problem quickly. The manual is a great resource and a lot of questions are answered right up front. 

HeliMx – How many aircraft in how many countries are you currently supporting?

Rozanski – We are providing support to approximately 7,400 aircraft around the globe.

HeliMx – How many inquiries do you get in a year’s time? 

Rozanski – It falls somewhere in the 9,000- to 10,000-per-year range. 

The SAS help desk has a team of 18 dedicated aviation professionals with more than 350 years of expertise waiting for you to contact them with a problem should the need arise, 24/7. I wonder what they would do if someone called to just say hi.

Don Rozanski began his Sikorsky Aircraft career in 1978 and has held a number of managerial positions in both operations and aftermarket support. He has been involved in multiple Sikorsky programs from the S-61through the S-92 helicopters. Rozanski led his organization to UTC’s ACE Gold status, the corporation’s highest achievement rating for quality and productivity. He holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Southern Connecticut State University and a Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law.