Airbus Corporate Helicopters (Booth Z52) returns to EBACE in Geneva after a record year in which 114 helicopters were sold for a value of €752 million. The majority of sales were of the smaller ACH125, ACH130, ACH135, and ACH145, but the roster also included a pair of the larger ACH175, plus two ACH225s, the latter for head-of-state duties in Asia. Moreover, the figures also included 10 of the latest ACH160, which is the principal focus of the company’s participation at EBACE.
“This is the year of the ACH160,” said Airbus Corporate Helicopters head Frédéric Lemos, and two of these helicopters—plus a cabin mockup—are present this week at EBACE, including one for customer demonstration flights.
ACH160 handovers began with the shipment of the first via an A300-600ST Beluga transporter to Brazil in August last year, and the first ACH160 with the premium Exclusive cabin was recently handed over to a European customer. In March, deliveries began of six ACH160s in the basic Line configuration for The Helicopter Company in Saudi Arabia, the first example to be operated by Red Sea Global. An initial order from India has also been received.
Currently in build is the first ACH160 Line with the Lounge package, destined for an Italian customer. The Lounge package fits within the Line aircraft, which has been designed so that the helicopter can be reconfigured for other purposes if required at a later date.
The ACH160 fleet has already surpassed 1,500 flight hours, and deliveries will begin shortly to the North American market. These are being held up while the type awaits FAA and Transport Canada certifications, which are expected later this year. Airbus has already installed a full-flight simulator in Dallas. Lemos reported that ACH160 production slots are currently available for 2024/25.
Airbus Corporate Helicopters’ sales figures reflect that—despite the private/corporate helicopter market being more resilient than most from the effects of Covid—an inevitable dip occurred during the pandemic in 2020, followed by a spectacular rebound in 2021/22. The company recognizes that there has been a subsequent leveling out following the rebound and that sales figures are naturally returning to around the 2019 level, but with a strong performance forecast over the next five years. Airbus Corporate Helicopters has secured 67 percent of the turbine market between 2018 and 2022.
Other recent company highlights include the delivery of 11 Aston Martin special edition ACH130s, including the latest that was flown all the way from the finishing facility in the UK to its new home in Australia. Success with the initial batch of 15 Aston Martin editions has led to the production of 15 more being authorized, with new color trims being introduced. Deliveries of the latest version of the ACH145 with a five-blade main rotor have now surpassed 30. The popular Mercedes-Benz Style edition of the ACH145 is to receive a facelift in 2025.
Airbus is also heavily involved in sustainability efforts, including studies into new propulsion systems and more efficient aerodynamics and structures. In the short term, all of the company’s helicopters are certified to run on a 50 percent synthetic aircraft fuel blend, and one ACH130 operated by Helsinki Citycopter is flown all the time using this blend. Further work is underway to reach 100 percent SAF certification for Airbus helicopters by 2030.