Dubai Air Show

Eurocopter proves virtue of patience in Mideast

 - November 8, 2007, 2:37 AM

Eurocopter (Stand C220) expects the long-anticipated growth in demand for civil helicopters in the Middle East to materialize now and it believes the market’s emergence will have been worth the wait. According to regional marketing manager Xavier Hay, the helomaker expects to sell at least 20 civil rotorcraft per year in this part of the world. The European manufacturer currently has 650 aircraft–about 80 percent of them military–flying in the region.

“Until recent years, military and police sales were predominant,” Hay told AIN, but new market niches are opening–aerial surveys and emergency medical services, for example.

On average, out of Eurocopter’s total annual sales, the Middle East accounts for 30 to 40 aircraft–military and civil. On the civil side, including parapublic applications, the majority of orders are for its light- and medium-size models, such as the EC 135 and EC 155, with the remainder for its heavier Super Puma family.

Although the company has not yet sold an EC 145, Hay insisted that there is a strong interest in the new model. The fast expansion of some Middle Eastern cities has made this kind of helicopter increasingly necessary for EMS and law enforcement missions, according to Eurocopter. The success in the U.S. of the EC 145 in its light utility UH-72 Lakota version has boosted the marketing effort for it in the Middle East.

The business and corporate market also seems to be taking off. “Countries in the region were slower than others to relax their airspace,” Hay said, explaining that the Middle East also has previously focused on business jets, but now civil helicopter sales are picking up.

Corporate applications have spurred additional AS 350B3 and EC 130 sales. In VIP applications, Dauphin family helicopters lead the sales; they are particularly attractive to certain buyers as some of their interiors are based on super yachts. “Our new l’Hélicoptère par Hermès, a dedicated VIP version of the EC 135 light twin, is a priority in our marketing efforts in the Middle East–this is a market where customers like to fly in style,” Hay added. He hopes to announce sales soon.

Separately, Eurocopter has sold some EC 225s to heads of states in the region and in North Africa. Additional prospects come from modernization needs in the region’s offshore oil platform transport fleet.

For civil helicopter maintenance, Eurocopter has an authorized service center–Falcon Aviation Services, which has bases in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Depending on the scale of a program, up to 100 Eurocopter technicians can support military fleets locally. Sales teams total some 20 people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Another success has been Oman’s order for 20 NH 90 medium-size military transports, the first delivery of which is pegged for next year. Eurocopter is one of the three stakeholders in the NH 90 program, with AgustaWestland and Stork-Fokker.