French-based operator Ixair (Booth No. 1088) will soon be the first to fly the Cabri, a new light piston helicopter produced by startup company Guimbal Hélicoptères. The first of a firm order for 10 helicopters should be delivered before this summer. The event was initially pegged for March but a longer-than-expected production start phase has delayed it.
“We have no doubt Guimbal will be successful eventually,” Ixair commercial director Mathias Senes told EBACE Convention News. The new twin-seater was certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency in December and has several safety features such as a high level of crashworthiness, a shrouded tail rotor and a high-maneuverability composite main rotor.
“Our flying school will benefit from the positive image of using a new-generation aircraft,” said Senes. He insisted that the choice of the Cabri does not mean that all Robinson R22s and R44s will be phased out. Ixair operates three of each type.
First, he explained, some customers want a four-seater for leisure flights on weekends. Second, some other customers, already type-rated on the R22, just request a few additional training hours.
Ixair operates 21 helicopters of 11 types. In addition to the aforementioned pistons, its fleet includes turbine helicopters–all Eurocopters–ranging from the EC 120 Colibri to the AS 365 Dauphin. It also operates six business jets–Cessna Citations and a Dassault Falcon 900B–based in Paris Le Bourget, Marseille, Le Castellet and Lyon.
The company has eight bases in France and offers helicopter training at Toussus-le-Noble (near Paris), Auch and Le Castellet. Since 2006, Paris-area executive charter firm Hélifrance has been part of the Ixair group.
The company’s workforce now stands at 95, including 30 pilots. “We have strengthened our management, adding a technical director, a quality director and a safety director,” Senes reported.
Because it operates both helicopters and jets, Ixair is trying to market fixed- and rotary-wing air transportation as complements to each other, but has not yet been successful with its message. “Few customers plan to book complementary jet and helicopter flights at the same time,” Senes said. “Nonetheless, we have reinforced our Le Bourget base because we think demand for this service is about to grow.”