Despite a softening market, no sales letup at Eurocopter
Eurocopter (Booth No. 4682) reports that it has so far seen no consequence of the global economic downturn in its corporate/VIP helicopter sales, which the French manufacturer said will in all likelihood exceed last year’s 168-order record.
“Our sales have slowed in European countries where economic growth is based on real estate, but this has been more than offset by increased activity in other regions,” Patrice Royer, director for market development, business aviation, private and commercial segments, told NBAA Convention News. He said sales continue to be brisk in the rest of Europe and the U.S., reflecting a broader trend among helicopter manufacturers. In the Middle East, high-end tourism demand is spurring sales. Asia, South Korea and India lead Eurocopter’s growth in the corporate/VIP segment, while China (except Hong Kong) has yet to deliver on anticipated growth. “Helicopters, at last, have become a business tool and a complement to business jets,” Royer asserted.
Still, he said he does not anticipate fractional ownership catching on in helicopters in a big way. “Fractional ownership flights are positioning flights 40 percent of the time.
The helicopter’s low speed and short range make it incompatible with this model.
One exception may be in very large urban areas. This is what Sikorsky is doing in the northeast U.S.,” he said.
Another factor contributing to the continuing success of corporate/VIP rotorcraft sales are the lower noise and vibration levels in the newest helicopter models. The most popular helicopters for these applications are single-engine Ecureuils–the AS 350 B2/B3 and the EC 130 B4. “They are more versatile than the AgustaWestland A109,” Royer claimed. In second place is the EC 135 light twin, the corporate/VIP prospects for which have been boosted by the Hermès ultra-luxury version. Third on the podium is the EC 225 Super Puma 11-metric-ton twin, driven by sales to heads of state.
“Owner-pilots first look at performance and aesthetics, while corporate customers look at comfort,” Royer said. Executive air charters, “a small market,” want versatile helicopters because they usually have several businesses. Many of them opt for the AS 355 NP Ecureuil light twin, Royer noted.
Eurocopter is now working on a dedicated product support initiative for corporate/VIP operators.