Turbomeca wants bigger slice of cake

 - December 15, 2006, 5:03 AM

Turbomeca is today announcing a further expansion of its customer support network with four additional TurboSupport Centers. Simultaneously, during a morning press conference here at the Paris Air Show, the helicopter engine specialist in the new Safran group (formed by the merger of Snecma and Sagem) is to disclose the sale of the first Arrius 2B2-powered Eurocopter EC135 in Brazil to the country's firefighters. The twin-engine helicopters will be used for emergency medical services (EMS) operations. Emeric d’Arcimoles, Turbomeca’s president and CEO, was also expected to comment on the company's bright sales figures.

The latest additions to the existing TurboSupport network are in Lafayette, Louisiana; São Paulo, Brazil; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Geneva, bringing to 25 the number of TurboSupport centers around the world. A storage facility is currently being set up in Dallas–the first step toward a Texan logistical hub. “Next year, an Asian hub should commence operations,” said d’Arcimoles.

Two support issues are currently being resolved. First, the situation should be back to normal on Arrius 2 spare parts availability by year-end, d’Arcimoles promised. Second, the first new turbines for the Arriel 1B, 1D1 and 1S1 should be delivered by the end of 2006. A few months ago, a conservative, mandatory midlife replacement of second-stage turbine blades on these models was decided on for safety reasons. The in-development turbine is supposed to regain the initial time between overhaul (TBO) of 3,000 hours.

Turbomeca’s boss is bullish on the five years to come. “The helicopter market is to grow from 800 to 1,200 examples a year,” he told Aviation International News. D’Arcimoles expects to have a significant piece of the cake. He currently claims a 48-percent market share–compared with 43 percent two years ago.

In 2005, production should reach a 20-year high with 1,100 engines, almost a 40-percent increase over the 789 engines produced (including spares) in 2004. This year, revenues should be up by 8 percent over last year’s ?662 million (approximately $814 million).

Eurocopter, by far, remains customer number one, with some 80 percent of the company’s revenues. Production for Sikorsky and Indian-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) is increasing, however. The S-76 ++ and the Chetan (based on the Alouette III) are equipped respectively with Arriel 2S2s and TM333s.

“Since the beginning of this year, orders for the Arriel 2S2 jumped from 20 to 86,” d’Arcimoles told AIN.

This fall, the Ardiden 1H/Shakti engine, designed for the HAL Dhruv, will begin ground-testing. HAL has 11 percent of this new program.

Meanwhile, two programs have recorded little progress. The Arrius 3, an evolution aimed at possible heavier variants of the Eurocopter EC 135 and the Agusta A 109, is now on the shelf. “It will take us 25 months to certify it if demand emerges,” d'Arcimoles commented.

The Arrius 2G for the Kamov Ka-226 twin was to fly on the prototype aircraft early this year. “We hope to get a new schedule from the Russian manufacturer soon, maybe during the show,” d’Arcimoles said. With 710 shp of takeoff power, the Arrius 2G is a minor evolution of the Arrius 2B2.