Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland and Lease Corporation International (LCI) of Dublin, Ireland, have signed an agreement covering purchase of a fleet of AW139, AW169 and AW189 helicopters, a deal which, including options, is valued at more than $398 million.
Deliveries of the helicopters are planned to begin in 2013, starting with the AW139, followed by the AW189 in 2014 and the AW169 still later, after its certification. LCI has already placed the first three aircraft with customers, according to Crispin Maunder, executive chairman of the Dublin, Ireland-based leasing firm. The deal, announced here at HeliExpo 2012 yesterday, also includes aircraft maintenance and pilot training.
LCI expects to benefit from the commonality in design across the AgustaWestland helicopter family. All three helicopters noted in the agreement share a common cockpit layout, design philosophy and maintenance concepts that will allow fleet operations in aircraft weight classes from four to 8.5 metric tons.
The acquisitions allow LCI to expand its already rapid growth in the narrow- and wide-body fixed-wing leasing market. The company, part of the Libra Group, plans to offer helicopter operators “an attractive alternative to buying and financing the purchase of helicopters,” in particular in the offshore, search and rescue, law enforcement, border patrol and aero-medical fields.
According to Emilio Dalmasso, AgustaWestland senior v-p for commercial business, the agreement adds “a brand new kind of customer to our list of clients.” And he added that LCI’s decision to enter the helicopter business by investing in the latest generation of rotorcraft technology “highlights its confidence in the opportunities offered by the commercial helicopter market in years to come.”
“Now is the time to make this move, given the high level of unfulfilled demand for new-generation helicopters,” concluded Maunder.
LCI CEO Michael Platt also made it clear that the move into helicopters is long-term. “There will be other orders from other OEMs,” he explained, “and we also plan to offer a buy and lease-back program for current owners and operators.”
Platt further foresees a helicopter market explosion in Asia, where a somewhat limited airport infrastructure holds back even greater growth in fixed-wing transport. “The helicopter doesn’t need that kind of infrastructure,” he explained.