Eurocopter wasn’t the only OEM to strike it rich with a multiple-ship order from the U.S. government. Bell also picked up a deal for between 25 and thirty 430s, which will meet the U.S. Border Patrol’s requirements for medium twin-turbine helicopters. The helicopters will be built at Bell Canada in Montreal and deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2006.
Chinese operator COHC has ordered two Eurocopter AS 332L1 Super Pumas, with an option to acquire one EC 225 and an EC 155 B1. The order is worth $24.3 million (E24.7 million).
American Eurocopter opened its manufacturing, assembly and customization plant in Columbus, Miss., in October. The 85,500-sq-ft plant at Golden Triangle Regional Airport will employ a staff of 100 including technicians, manufacturing and support personnel.
The award of the U.S. Presidential VXX contract a few days before Heli-Expo was a hot topic in the Anaheim Convention Center last month. The decision went to the Lockheed Martin US-101, a helicopter with British and Italian roots, and came as a surprise to the many observers who assumed that Connecticut-based Sikorsky had the inside track with its newer S-92.
The industry gears up for its annual group hug, this year back in Las Vegas (March 15 to 17) against a backdrop of decent sales figures for new civil helicopters over the past year and a forecast of modest growth over the next eight. According to Bill Dane, senior analyst at Forecast International, between 2003 and 2012 projected deliveries are 9,500 helicopters valued at $19 billion.
The past 12 months have not been the most thrilling, it has to be said, for anyone on the lookout for new Western helicopters. Apart from the first look at an intriguing new European tiltwing design, there has been little to report in terms of new initiatives from the major manufacturers. Most of those seeking certification, with the honorable exception of the AB139, inch toward their goal with all the alacrity of a snail on Prozac.
Barry Eccleston wants to take Honeywell back into the commercial helicopter business in a big way, while at the same time finding another airframe on which to hang the company’s newly renamed HTF7000 turbofan, which now powers only the Bombardier Challenger 300.
Exhibitors at January’s Iran Airshow 2005 indicated that the market for civilian helicopters in the Islamic Republic is growing. Local and foreign manufacturers and lessor companies reported a steady growth of the helicopter market.
While Eurocopter remains the leader in unit sales of civil helicopters, its competitors are honing their products. The company’s management team is well aware of the pressure, as one official recently expressed concern about new competing products from Western manufacturers. He stated that they will soon be as capable as, and less expensive than, Eurocopter’s.
Organizers of this year’s Heli-Expo helicopter show in Orlando hope they can duplicate some of the magic of their business aviation counterparts at the National Business Aviation Association, who hosted a record NBAA Convention in the same city less than four months ago. If the success of last year’s Heli-Expo in Dallas is any indication, the Helicopter Association International could set a new attendance record of its own next month.