HAI Convention News

Industry perspective: AgustaWestland

 - February 22, 2009, 8:18 AM

Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland’s helicopters address what has become a sweet spot in today’s economy, the medium helicopter segment. And according to AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi, the company is faring well during the worldwide economic downturn.

How is the world economy affecting AgustaWestland?

Concerning our 2009 outlook for the commercial helicopter market, it reflects the difficult world economy, a situation that features reduced demand, liquidity shortage and oil price decreases affecting the offshore sector. We are addressing the situation sustaining the demand through solutions to the benefit of our expanding customer base while constantly ensuring profits to our stakeholders.

We are also acting to adapt our strategy to the new changing scenario, increasing activities related to the government and military markets and supporting customers in getting financing and accessing tailored services.

Have customers delayed or canceled deliveries due to the economy?

Cancellations affecting the commercial market in 2008 were insignificant, but I expect they will be a little higher in 2009. The 2008 order book, however, increased over 2007 and we estimate to keep on growing in 2009, too. Anyway, our range of products covers a variety of market segments in both commercial and military markets across the world and this will allow us to minimize specific market segment falls.

Has research-and-development funding grown, declined or will it remain at the same level?

Our R&D funding will remain at the same level in 2009. Our research-and-development activities are one of our competitive levers and we are keen to maintain a constant stream of innovation. What we are trying to do is to best focus on technological development which really brings actual advantage to our customers.

Have there been any layoffs at AgustaWestland facilities?

No, and we are not planning layoffs in the future. We have more than a three-year order book to meet currently, and our assembly lines in the U.S., UK and Italy are working at full regime as well as our plants.

Are plans still under way to increase the number of worldwide facilities?

Last year we opened new regional business headquarters in Japan and Turkey, as well as subsidiaries in Malaysia and Portugal, to better support our expanding presence in the respective markets where we see significant future business opportunities. We expanded the number of our service and spare parts centers worldwide by opening new dedicated sites in Canada, Malaysia, Japan, South Africa, Republic of Korea, India and with commitments to do the same in Russia and Portugal. We are evaluating the opening of more than 10 new service and spare parts centers across the world in 2009. Today AgustaWestland is present in more than 90 countries, and I can confirm that, if the market and the world economy conditions prove capable to sustain our growth, we will reach our targets.

What are plans for new helicopter models or upgrades to existing models?

The Future Lynx program continued to make good progress with the critical design review carried out last year while a TAI/AgustaWestland T129 integrated development team has been formally launched. Flight testing of the BA609 is going on well and it has now exceeded 400 flight hours and 250 ground hours. During 2008 the AW149 program reached significant milestones with first flight planned soon. With reference to the AW139, whose maximum gross weight increase up to 6,800 kilograms [14,991 pounds] was certified last year, we are now further developing its capabilities to meet new operational needs. Another successful model fitted with new all-weather capability enhancements will be introduced soon.

Is any industry segment stronger than others?

We enjoyed a very successful year in both military and commercial helicopter markets in 2008, not to mention our successfully expanding training business. New orders have been awarded across all the major geographical areas around the world and are boosting the order book to its highest level. The outlook for 2009 is less favorable, particularly the commercial market, while military and homeland security offer better prospects. Nonetheless helicopters, or better, the vertical takeoff aircraft are becoming more and more critical for a number of requirements, and the AgustaWestland product range can cover any evolving market need.