Business and VIP helicopter sales are recovering, according to Eurocopter. “After the downturn that hit us between late 2008 and early 2010, we are seeing new demand coming from Brazil, Russia, India and China. Moreover, the U.S. is in a healthier position,” Patrice Royer, the manufacturer’s head of business and private aviation sales, told AIN. This segment, however, is deemed fragile, as it is closely tied to the fortunes to those of stock markets, which themselves remain volatile.
Last year, Eurocopter sold about 60 helicopters for such applications, with the largest markets being in Latin America, the U.S. and Western Europe. But in terms of growth potential, ranking is different. Looking ahead, the fastest growing market is set to be China, followed by Brazil and Europe, according to Royer.
Eurocopter’s best-selling models in the business/VIP segment are the EC130 light single (including the latest version, the EC130 T2), the EC145 light twin and the EC155 medium twin. Royer estimated the additional cost for a business/VIP cabin is about 10 to 15 percent of the final price. He added the AS350 Ecureuil/AStar light single is enjoying success thanks to its versatility, with a configuration that can be changed easily from passenger transport to aerial work.
The EC145 T2, a major upgrade over the original EC145, will soon be marketed as a business aircraft. It is to be available for delivery from the first half of 2014. The Mercedes-Benz version, initially offered on the EC145, will also be offered on the EC145 T2.
So far, two EC145 Mercedes-Benz
have been sold, to European private customers, Royer said. The first delivery of the $8.4 million rotorcraft was to take place in April. Meanwhile, sales of the $7.1 million EC135 Hermès are stagnating, with just four sold since the luxury variant of the light twin was launched in 2007. The four customers are flying them in Japan, Abu Dhabi, UK and Denmark.
The overall trend is toward more twins, although singles still account for the majority of business/VIP helicopter sales. Since 2007, Eurocopter has sold about 38 percent of twins in the segment. “Entrepreneurs like light twins, while wealthy individuals and big corporations tend to buy medium twins,” Royer said.
Meanwhile, the in-development EC175 medium twin is currently being marketed in an executive/VIP version. “We’ll be able to seat 10 passengers very comfortably,” Royer said. The aircraft’s range is meeting a perceived new demand for flying longer distances between large cities.