Both Airbus Helicopters and Bell are displaying at this year’s MEBAA show. It will be the Airbus helicopter division's first time at the event.
More than 650 Airbus helicopters are flying throughout the Gulf region with military and civil operators. The company is set on expanding its footprint in the region by teaming with local partners to offer MRO services, opening a technical office in Pakistan, and developing a regional industrial base through partners and subsidiaries including Eurocopter Kingdom Saudi Arabia and Airbus Helicopters Southern Africa. The latter supports 150 turbine helicopters operating from 20 countries throughout the region. The Pakistan office is part of the company’s “proximity strategy” for the region and it joins a network including the company technical representative office in the UAE, the Airbus Helicopters customer center in Saudi Arabia, and authorized service centers at Falcon Aviation Services (UAE) and regional distributors including Global Aerospace Logistics and AMMROC in Abu Dhabi.
Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) is making its first appearance at MEBAA this year and is displaying a new ACH145 medium twin with a Mercedes-Benz Style interior. “As the first time ACH exhibits at MEBAA, we wish to demonstrate what sets ACH apart in private and business aviation, especially considering the importance of the Middle East market in this segment," said Frederic Lemos, head of ACH. "The cabin model of the ACH145 Mercedes Benz Style, part of our ACH Editions offering, provides a brilliant example of the style and quality standards ACH has to offer.”
Bell is displaying its model 429 twin and 505 light single at the show, and this the first appearance of a production 505 at MEBAA. Bell has some 800 aircraft flying in the region. The 429 is owned by EDIC Horizon flight training academy, which is taking delivery of two 429s at MEBAA. The aircraft will be used to train military pilots.
The 505 is doing demonstration flights throughout the region, and Bell expects the model to sell well, particularly in Africa. Worldwide more than 100 model 505s have been delivered and the fleet has amassed more than 10,000 hours of flight time. Bell is aiming to position the 505 in Africa as the “military trainer of choice” and to offer it for the emerging air-taxi market with entities such as Helicity in locations including Dubai. The Kuwait ministry of health also operates an EMS-configured 429.
The Bell 407 single also continues to sell well in the region, with recent new sales to Caverton in Nigeria, Horizon for training, and the Joint Aviation Command, UAE and Iraqi Army, which operate armed variants. In October the U.S. State Department approved the sale of five armed 407GX helicopters to Iraq in a deal valued at $82.5 million. The 412 medium twin remains popular with parapublic operators, including the Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah police and the Dubai Air Wing. The enhanced Subaru Bell 412 EPX was certified in July and is now available commercially.
Bell remains hopeful for the prospects for the in-development 525 super-medium twin in the Middle East, particularly for royal flight operations. Testing of the 525 continues with an aim for certification in 2019. Three test aircraft are currently flying and a fourth will be added this year. Recently completed tests includes cold weather testing (-37 deg F) in Manitoba, Canada; high/hot testing in Yuma, Arizona, up to 14,000 feet density altitude and 120 deg F, a fuel system drop test from 50 feet, and overall flight test hours exceeding 1,000. Bell continues to expand its service network in the region, most recently adding Africair in Nairobi, Kenya. The company also is launching certified training facilities worldwide, the first being Helideal in France.
Leonardo is also making progress in the region. In July the company announced a deal with helicopter lessor Milestone Aviation Group to provide up to 21 new AW139 intermediate twins to Saudi Aramco over the next three years. Aramco has been operating a fleet of 14 AW139s since 2008, and seven AW109 light twins since 2006. The new helicopters will be configured for oil and gas and SAR operations.