At Heli-Expo yesterday, Eurocopter introduced a new model intended to help maintain its market position, the EC135T3/P3, which is making its debut here. The company reported a 15-percent growth in revenues in 2012 despite a decrease in deliveries over 2011.
Lutz Bertling, president and CEO of Eurocopter Group, said the revenue growth reflects increased sales of higher-priced large helicopters and its expanding portfolio of customer services, while the decline in deliveries represented the last vestige of the decreased orders resulting from the financial crisis at the end of the last decade. Bertling said Eurocopter anticipates a 13-percent increase in deliveries in 2013. “The market is recovering,” said Bertling. “We see the market coming back by ’14, from the financial crisis.”
Among the Eurocopter Group’s highlights of the past year Bertling cited were the first delivery of the AS350B3e, success of the EC130T2, market entry of the EC145T2 and first flight of the first production model of the EC175.
Bertling said its strong results validate Eurocopter’s “evolutionary” approach to continually improving existing product lines. “It keeps residual values of the helicopters high, [and] it reduces development risk in terms of resources,” Bertling said. “We will continue with the evolution where it makes sense, which makes sure the customer will have better mission capability by buying our helicopter than any other copter on the market.”
The new light twin-engine EC135T3/P3 exemplifies that approach, offering improvements including optimized Fadec software, longer rotor blades and a change in the location of the air intake. These changes yield a 66-pound increase in mtow, and improved hot/high performance (an additional 440 pounds of payload at 1,500 meters, ISA +20). The updated model also features extended range with external auxiliary fuel tanks, a new interior design, Bluetooth headsets, and new life raft system. EMS transport provider Air Methods is the launch customer for the new model.
Among the highlights American Eurocopter president and CEO Marc Paganini noted was the U.S. tour of the X3 (X cubed), Eurocopter’s high-speed compound aircraft, which was demonstrated to operators from the oil and gas, public services, law enforcement, HEMS and VIP sectors. Eurocopter will adapt the technology in the platform to create a new helicopter “significantly different in terms of size,” Bertling said, though he declined to provide a certification date, launch customer or other details.
Eurocopter’s sales are relatively balanced between civil and military sales. Bertling pointed to political realities as preventing Eurocopter from dominating the global military market, it sees significant opportunities ahead, particularly the U.S. Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) program. The company is proposing its AAS-72X as the high-performance, low risk solution. “We intend to deliver 50 percent more range and 50 percent more cruise speed for 20 percent more cost,” he said.
But amidst all the good news and bright prospects, Bertling said that after safety, its major priority at the moment is addressing the problems with the EC225 Super Puma. The global fleet is flying under restricted service as the result of the ditching of two EC225s in the North Sea last fall, losses attributed to cracks in the main gearbox bevel gear shafts. Eurocopter had previously said the aircraft would return to unrestricted service in February. At the press conference Bertling said results of the latest series of tests on suspect components would be completed by the end of March.
Eurocopter has five aircraft on display at Heli-Expo: an EC175, EC145T2, AS350B3e, EC225 and the new EC135T3/P3.