Leonardo Helicopters opened a new customer support facility yesterday in Broussard, Louisiana, bringing the number of such centers in the Americas to four. The 21,000-sq-ft repair and warehouse facility is situated on a two-acre site and will initially employ 15, provide 24/7 customer support, stock a wide variety of helicopter parts, and provide a far-ranging menu of repair services, including blade repair and mobile blade repair. It also includes space for sales, tech reps, and engineering support. Three tech reps will be based there.
The Gulf Coast Support Center is strategically positioned to support the approximately 90 AW139 intermediate twins, 40 AW119 singles, and numerous AW109 light twins operating in the region, according to Michael Hotze, Leonardo’s vice president of customer support and training for AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp. Regional customers include major offshore energy helicopter service companies Arrow Aviation, Bristow Group, ERA, and PHI.
“We’re here to be closer to our customers,” said Hotze. “This facility is here not just to support the oil-and-gas guys. It will support customers in the entire lower 48 states.” Hotze said employment at Broussard will likely double within 18 months. “Customers are really excited.”
Troy Penny, who will be the general manager at Broussard, said the facility will be able to overhaul a set of rotor blades in 21 days and throughput up to 1,500 blades per year. “What we’re really building is capability that doesn’t exist in the U.S. right now. That is our short-term goal. We are opening with all the repair capabilities that currently exist in the U.S., and then we will expand into the repairs that [currently] have to go back to Italy,” Penny said.
He noted that component repairs involving bushings, re-machinings, tip caps, and sweep corrections, for example, are burdensome to customers and can have turn times as long as 18 months. Penny said Broussard would provide area customers with pick-up and delivery service using a dedicated truck and, when possible, provide same-day service.
“We’re trying to establish the same manufacturing capabilities that we have in Italy, but from a customer perspective, do it in one-tenth the time,” Hotze said. That means turn times for most repairs will be 30 days or less; complex repairs and overhauls will be 60 days or less. “This facility is tied into all the engineering and repair capability they have in Italy. We’ll be able to turn blades quickly because of that, but we’re not just a blade center.”
Hotze said customers will find services offered by the Broussard facility very cost competitive, predicting services would be provided “at market rates with OEM capability. That’s going to be an enormous savings. We’ve always shortened the supply chain so customers don’t have to use third-party vendors to repair blades. Third-party vendors eventually end up coming to us for engineering and support data and repair schemes anyway. We eliminate all those layers.”
Hotze said the new service center is part of Leonardo’s larger “Team Up” initiative to get closer to its customers, understand their needs, and make them successful. Team Up provides customers with services that include parts forecasting which Hotze said is up to 90 percent accurate. The Broussard facility also will be able to access customer health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) data for customers who are subscribed to Leonardo’s Heliwise service. Heliwise is supported by two engineers in Philadelphia, three in Italy, and two in Malaysia who look at customer HUMS data full-time.
In conjunction with the new center, Hotze said Leonardo is expanding its in-house MRO capability and now has full capability for all dynamic components at its main U.S. base in Philadelphia, which is also a customer support center. Its other Americas centers are located in Las Vegas and São Paulo, Brazil. “The Americas is the most mature helicopter market and we are extremely committed to it,” Hotze said, despite the recent fall-off in offshore helicopter activity. “This downturn won’t last forever, and we want to be here when our customers need us. We’re really committed to the success of this place.”