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The improved Columbia Model II helicopter is designated Model III.The improved Columbia Model II helicopter is designated Model III.

This Columbia Model II is pictured near Ketchikan, Alaska. (Photo credit: Columbia Helicopters).

Heavy-lift tandem helicopter specialist Columbia Helicopters is working with Piasecki Aircraft to modernize its Model 107-II aircraft.

According to the manufacturer, the new partnership will produce more fuel-efficient, more powerful and more robust Columbia Model CHI-107-III helicopters. The modernized helicopters (Model III) will be used for emergency response missions in addition to defense missions – including aerial firefighting, forestry and infrastructure.

Modifications and testing are done at Piasecki’s 20,000-square-foot Heliplex facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. (That facility was acquired by Lockheed Martin Sikorsky last year after the site’s S-76 and S-92 helicopter production lines were closed.)

The Heliplex facility will also be Columbia’s new operating base, expanding capabilities on the U.S. East Coast. The partnership also includes the development of product support plans for Columbia’s CHI-107-III model – including the establishment of an FAA Part 145 repair station at the facility.

The new Columbia Model 107-II will transform the heavy-lift helicopter market, offering unprecedented performance and versatility, says David Balevic, CEO of Columbia Helicopters. “We are committed to pushing the boundaries of what is possible and, together with our partners at Piasecki, will deliver enhanced heavy-lift aircraft that save lives, protect nations and build industries for decades to come,” he said.

John Piasecki, CEO of Piasecki Aircraft, said the partnership represents a significant step in the development of tandem rotor helicopters and promises to deliver enhanced capabilities for a wide range of military and civil applications. “We look forward to working together to advance the future of this vertical lifting technology and create hundreds of jobs for our communities,” he added.

Meanwhile, Piasecki received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) earlier this year.

David Balevic joined Columbia Helicopters earlier this year.