HAI Convention News

Eurocopter retools, readies for biz upturn

 - February 21, 2010, 10:04 AM

At Eurocopter’s annual Heli-Expo breakfast press conference yesterday, CEO Lutz Bertling said the company is using the current economic downturn to retool its business for greater performance and efficiency, while actively pursuing the next generation of helicopter technologies including its Blue Edge and Blue Pulse blade and other research and development programs “so that we will be ready for the market once the upturn comes.” He also said that the company planned to have two new helicopter models on display at next year’s Heli-Expo, but he declined to identify them. “Look for test flights in Europe first,” he said.

Bertling said that in 2009 Eurocopter’s business sectors posted declines of various degrees with the exception of offshore oil and gas customers, but that nevertheless company revenues were up overall to $6.2 billion from $5.9 billion in 2008, due largely to the company’s increased focus on military and service sales. New orders increased modestly from $6.4 billion in 2008 to $7.8 billion last year. Bertling said the company continues to carry a robust backlog valued at $20 billion. However, new net orders during 2009 were down sharply from 715 in 2008 to 344, once cancellations were included. Eurocopter’s share of the world civil helicopter market stands at 53.5 percent. Sixty-five percent of the company’s business is derived from exports.

In the U.S., revenues for American Eurocopter increased modestly, to $784 million in 2009 from $750 million in 2008, and market share of the U.S. civil market remained approximately 52 percent. American Eurocopter president Marc Paganini said the unit delivered 155 new helicopters last year. He stressed that the company got through the year without layoffs and was doing some limited hiring.

On the military side, Bertling said that the global economy was not diminishing the demand for military helicopters and he reported building interest in military variants of civil airframes such as derivatives of the EC145 (model 645) and EC225 (model 725) as well as the EC665 Tiger combat support helicopter, thanks to its recent performance in Afghanistan. He said he expected strong interest for light twins used for surveillance, reconnaissance, medevac and mediums twins for troop lift. “I believe the 725 has a very good chance on the market.”

Paganini said the Armed Scout 645 was demonstrated to the U.S. Army last year, but he did not expect the U.S. Army to issue an RFP for the program until 2011. However, another program based on the EC145 is well under way. Eurocopter recently delivered its 100th UH-72A Lakota to the Army for use by Air National Guard units and has trained 500 pilots and 200 mechanics on the helicopter.