Helitech’s New Venue Proves Good Platform for New Products, Services

 - November 2, 2014, 3:25 AM
Helitech 2014

Late last month the jury was still out on whether the first edition of Helitech in Amsterdam was successful numerically, as the organizers could not provide AIN with an attendance count as we went to press. However, judging by foot traffic on the exhibit floor at the Dutch city’s RAI center and a full auditorium for the conference program, the new venue attracted a fair number and quality of visitors, products on display and speakers. At 180, the number of exhibitors this year was lower than the 220 last year in London but director John Hyde was happy to announce 65 were first-timers. Among the absentees were Sikorsky and Marenco Swisshelicopter.

Helitech 2015 will take place from October 6 to 8 at the ExCel exhibition center in London. Organized by Reed Exhibitions in association with the EHA, the annual event will alternate between the two sites.

Forecast Sees $75 Billion Market for Commercial Helicopters

The commercial helicopter segment represents a $75 billion market over the next 10 years, according to a forecast delivered by aviation consultancy Ascend.

By aircraft category, the study predicts medium and super-medium twins will dominate, with 44 percent. By region, “Europe and Asia-Pacific suddenly are the mature markets,” Ascend’s head of market analysis, Chris Seymour, asserted, with the two accounting for a combined 47 percent. North America’s share will decline to 30 percent over the period, according to the study.

“Your forecast is close to ours, albeit a bit higher,” said Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury. AgustaWestland senior v-p for strategy and business development Roberto Garavaglia said demand is strong, driven by commercial and parapublic operations. The growing number of leasing companies reinforces the trend.

The offshore oil-and-gas segment has experienced “an explosion in demand” over the past 10 years, Seymour reported, the result of fleet renewal needs and high oil prices, which allow investment in more distant rigs, he said. AgustaWestland’s Garavaglia anticipates that most growth in the offshore sector will originate in a need for long-distance flights.

Bristow CEO Jonathan Baliff said he has seen steady growth, measured in “large aircraft equivalent,” in his company since 2007. Bristow estimates that one large helicopter (Sikorsky S-92, for example) generates the same revenue as two medium helicopters (AgustaWestland AW139) or four small ones (Bell 407). One large aircraft equivalent is thus $10 million per year, he said.

Bristow CEO Floats Guaranteed Helicopter Availability Idea

Helicopter manufacturers should offer guaranteed aircraft availability, Bristow CEO Jonathan Baliff requested at the Industry Business Leaders’ Forum at Helitech 2014 last month.

The issue is so important that “Bristow will want to share the availability risk with OEMs for its next contracts,” he said. In the offshore industry, the proportion of rotorcraft undergoing maintenance at any given time is relatively high, even before taking into consideration groundings such as the one that affected the EC225 in the recent past.

The idea attracted a positive response from helicopter manufacturers. “This would be good for us,” said Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury, since it would compel the manufacturers to focus on product maturity.

AgustaWestland senior v-p for strategy and business development Roberto Garavaglia concurred, noting that a monetary value for availability would have to be defined.

AgustaWestland Announces Flurry of Sales

AgustaWestland announced four contracts at Helitech covering orders for 54 helicopters.

The Italian manufacturer signed a multi-year contract for 50 helicopters with China’s Beijing Automotive Industrial, a company that is diversifying into aircraft distribution through its Beijing General Aviation (BGAC) subsidiary. The deal covers various models, including the AW119Kx, the AW139, the AW169 and the AW189. Deliveries are scheduled to start in the middle of next year and continue until 2019. Valued at approximately €400 million ($500 million), the contract firms up a memorandum of understanding the two companies signed in June and includes training, parts and technical support.

The partnership will evolve further, with plans to provide local support, training and aircraft customization services. AgustaWestland and BGAC target parapublic applications.

Denmark’s Bel Air signed a “preliminary sales contract” to purchase a third AW189 medium twin. The offshore oil-and-gas operator took delivery of its first one at the show and the second will be handed over shortly.

Norsk Luftambulanse inked a contract for one AW169, which the Norwegian operator will use in EMS operations. Specific mission equipment includes retractable soft-terrain skis.

In the UK, AgustaWestland has sold two more AW169s for corporate transportation, with deliveries scheduled for 2016. More than 120 AW169s are now on firm order.

Airbus Helicopters Launches Customer Support Effort

Airbus Helicopters has launched what it calls a wide-ranging effort to bolster customer support and improve its image for parts availability and service responsiveness.

Part of the motivation behind the project is the company’s recent name change, from Eurocopter to Airbus Helicopters. The company has to live up to the Airbus brand, which carries high customer expectations, said CEO Guillaume Faury.

“We know we can achieve this,” Matthieu Louvot, Airbus Helicopters’ senior v-p of support and services, told attendees at a Helitech press briefing. The effort has started by bringing together the entities that deal with the customer, such as sales and customer service. “Some customers were saying, ‘We hear different voices and we are not sure they are connected,’” Louvot said. The company has also renamed its overseas subsidiaries “customer centers.”

“We are putting our money where our mouth is,” Louvot stated. Airbus Helicopters is making a €100 million investment in parts, and since May has expanded its inventories in Hong Kong, Dallas and Brazil.

The company has also implemented several new services. With the extended “secured standard exchange” program, a customer can immediately exchange a part that needs repair or overhaul for another serviceable part. Ecureuil-series light singles are the first to benefit from the program, both for dynamic components and equipment.

The “secured turnaround time” service guarantees equipment repair and overhaul within 45 days or the customer is given a new part. It is offered first on equipment for the Dauphin and Super Puma lines, currently covering 400 part numbers. Airbus will expand the guaranteed turnaround time over the coming year to all of its helicopters and a wider range of items, including dynamic components.

Data analytics will be offered, enabling operators to compare their maintenance needs to the average and helping Airbus improve reliability, times between overhaul and so on.

Airbus Helicopters claims to have improved to 98 percent the level of planned spares orders delivered on time (“planned” meaning placed 15 days or more in advance). According to a company-conducted analysis, late delivery of parts has fallen by 40 percent and equipment repairs are 90 percent on time.

EC255 Retrofit Continues

As of mid-October, 50 EC225s (one fifth of the fleet) had been retrofitted with the redesigned bevel gear shaft in the main gearbox. Airbus plans to have retrofitted the entire fleet–260 helicopters–by the end of next year.