AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi offered a satisfactory look back at 2009, as well as a positive forecast, during a Heli-Expo press conference on Saturday here in Houston.
“Last year was better than we had expected,” he said, although the year-end numbers won’t be announced officially by Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland’s parent company, until early next month. “Despite the [economic] crisis, 2009 was a great year for us.”
AgustaWestland continued its “globalization” efforts through 2009 and into 2010. The acquisition of PZL Swidnik, now AgustaWestland Swidnik, has expanded its presence in central Europe.
Through a recent agreement with Tata Sons of India for AW119 production, the joint venture will allow AgustaWestland entry into the Indian market. “I believe this will be of particular importance, not only for AgustaWestland, but for all the helicopter industry,” Orsi said, adding that he expects helicopter use in India to gain in importance “in the near future.”
Also part of the future is a joint venture with Oboronprom, through which AgustaWestland will introduce the AW139 to the Russian market. An AW139 assembly line is under construction and the first deliveries of Russian-built AW139s are expected to begin “in a couple of years.”
In the arena of product development, Orsi offered a list that gave no small credit to growth in military sales for much of AgustaWestland’s success over the past year and going forward into 2010. “The military market has remained very active for AgustaWestland, both in our domestic markets with the CH-47 sales in Italy, the Lynx re-engine and the Apache IOS program for the United Kingdom ministry of defense,” he said.
Among the company’s other acheivements in 2009:
• Four model variants made first flights within a period of three months last year: the T129; a new variant of the AW101; the AW159; and the AW149.
• An ice-protection system for the AW139 obtained certification.
• Six NH90 TTH helicopters were delivered to the Italian army, with six more in acceptance, out of a total order of 60 aircraft.
• An army order for 16 CH-47s was issued in April.
• The Italian air force has a SAR/CSAR fleet renewal contract for 12 to 15 AW101s.
• Deliveries of AW109s and AW139s are ongoing for Italian para-military fleets.
• Deliveries of AW101s to the Italian navy are ongoing.
Regarding the U.S. presidential helicopter program, Orsi said that when the EH101 was selected in 2005, it was the best answer. “Based on our analysis of the request for information released by the U.S. Navy last week,” he added, “It’s still the best answer, if not the only answer.”
Finally, Orsi voiced the opinion that technologies are being developed that will eventually lead to vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that can fly fast and high and will make the helicopter industry “a significant player in the immense world of mass air transportation. Our industry has to wake up or become marginalized.”