Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) revealed its ACH130 Aston Martin Edition at an event held on January 3 at Courchevel in the French alpine skiing region. The special edition is the first result of a partnership between ACH and luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin Lagonda (AML).
Design teams at both companies have been working for more than a year to create the Aston Martin Edition, which is available with four external schemes. The first aircraft, which is being used as a demonstrator but is to be handed over to a customer in the first quarter of 2020, is painted in a Stirling Green scheme, which fades into Jet Black on the undersides. The intakes are in Skyfall Silver. Other schemes are also based on the Aston Martin car palette, based around Xenon Grey, Arizona, and Ultramarine Black.
The interior offers a higher level of comfort than the traditional ACH130, which can seat up to seven including the pilot. The cabin is trimmed in Pure Black ultra-suede, with leather trims again drawn from the Aston Martin car range, colors comprising Oxford Tan, Pure Black, Cormorant, and Ivory. The rear of the front seats features the brogue detailing found in the DB11 car, and Aston Martin’s wings signature is embossed in some of the leather elements.
The two companies came together as they “share common values,” according to Frédéric Lemos, head of ACH, while AML’s v-p and chief creative officer, Marek Reichman, described the partnership as “two unbelievable brands creating a fantastic project.”
Speaking at a pre-launch media event in December at London Heliport, Lemos characterized the project as, “how to put what makes Aston Martin so special into a helicopter,” before going on to note that the companies had a similar customer profile when it came to single-engine, single-pilot helicopters.
“The ACH130 Aston Martin Edition is optimally positioned in the market for hands-on owners who draw satisfaction from personally piloting their aircraft, and it generates strong brand loyalty,” said Lemos. “In the same way, Aston Martin’s products are cars for drivers who relish being at the wheel and they inspire a comparable attachment to the brand. So they are the perfect partner for us in developing this superb new ACH130 Aston Martin Edition.”
For Aston Martin, the project represents another avenue to explore. “We have our own set of automotive design principles but in recent years we have been learning how to apply our principles to other areas of design, such as architecture, motorcycles, and now helicopters,” remarked Reichman. “This first application of our design practices to a helicopter posed a number of interesting challenges but we have enjoyed working through them.”
ACH130s destined to receive the Aston Martin Edition styling are built on the regular H130 line at Marignane in France and are then delivered to Airbus Helicopters UK at Kidlington (London-Oxford Airport), where they are completed with the customer-specified paint scheme and interior. They also receive a special plaque on the instrument panel before handover. No price details have been revealed, although the basic H130 has a list price of €2.8 million.
ACH and AML have signed a three-year partnership deal, but it is likely to be extended. For AML’s part, Reichman commented, “We don’t enter into partnerships lightly,” while Lemos added that, “We’d like to extend further… we only form long-term partnerships.” For now, the partnership is focusing on the ACH130 as it best fits the customer profile, but both parties agreed that the learning process that is being experienced with the ACH130 could lead to more programs.
ACH already has a long-term partnership with German carmaker Mercedes-Benz concerning special-edition ACH145s, but Lemos sees no conflict with AML tie-up due to differing customer profiles. Speaking to AIN, he explained that the ACH145 was operated almost entirely by private and corporate owners who did not fly the helicopters themselves, in much the same way as they would usually employ a driver for their Mercedes automobiles.