Singapore Air Show

Asian helicopter market is set to outstrip U.S.

 - February 2, 2010, 7:40 PM

Eurocopter’s revenues in Asia grew by 58 percent in 2009, to ?896 million ($1.25 billion)–20 percent of the group’s total. In fact, CEO Lutz Bertling is so optimistic that on Tuesday here at the show he predicted the Asian helicopter market one day will be the size of that of the U.S., which today ranks first by far. “Growth rates here in the region are impressive, and in China and India–two potentially huge markets–are impeded only by regulation,” he said.

Asia saw a decline in demand for light helicopters in 2009 as did the rest of the world, but it was offset by a greater demand for medium-size models. This resulted in a steady ?504 million ($700 million) in orders. This year is predicted to be a very good one and is off to an auspicious start after contracts were signed in January, another official said.

Eurocopter intends to open a new MRO center and begin operating an EC 225/725 simulator in Malaysia this year. The company also is considering moving Eurocopter Southeast Asia’s Singapore headquarters to Seletar Airport. In addition, Indonesia’s PTDI is to start manufacturing EC 225/725 tailbooms in 2010.

Last December the French-German group opened a subsidiary in Thailand, where a staff of 10 performs maintenance, mainly for the Royal Thai police. They also are maintaining EC 130s, EC 135s, Ecureuils and EC 155s.

On the military front, a deal is under way to sell EC 725s to Malaysia. “A budgeting issue remains within the Malaysian government and we expect it to be fixed this quarter,” Bertling said. Eurocopter hopes the outcome will be favorably influenced by the combination of its investments in Malaysia and the fact that local industry is becoming part of the supply chain for several models, including the EC 135 and the EC 725.

In India, Eurocopter is bidding for the reconnaissance surveillance helicopter (RSH) program, with an offer of 197 AS 550 C3 Fennecs. Bertling said the competitors are
the Turbomeca-powered version of the Kamov Ka-226 and the AgustaWestland A109. The tender is a repeat of one cancelled three years ago.

The Indian government also has issued a request for information for transport helicopters. The Indian multi-role helicopter program requirement is for 400 aircraft, probably under an industrial cooperation agreement. Eurocopter is offering the EC 725 either as an off-the-shelf product or the basis of a development.

Bertling addressed the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) Surion transport, which Eurocopter is helping to develop. Talks for a joint venture for international sales are ongoing. Additionally, he expressed a desire to work with KAI on the country’s future light attack helicopter.