Why Airbus Helicopters finally found a bit of air

At Airbus Helicopters, it turbine still… in spite of an international market yet very, very complicated, in particular that of the offshore (oil & gas), which remains depressed. The subsidiary hélicoptériste Airbus did better than resist since the beginning of the year. Of course, the market recovery is not expected before a year or two” as confirmed to The Tribune during the salon du Bourget, the CEO of Safran Helicopter Engines Bruno Even. But the first half of 2017, Airbus Helicopters, which has been rather satisfactory on the commercial aspect, is the bearer of hopes for the constructor of Marignane and the chain-hélicoptériste French. As the new plant is state of the art of Dugny (paris region) rises in rate of fire.

“I don’t see a recovery in 2017, explained Bruno Even last June. We are currently in a down cycle and I don’t see the market continue to deteriorate. However, the recovery will not happen until one or two years. We have solid fundamentals, to wait for the recovery”.

Airbus Helicopters to the stimulus

Why such optimism ? Airbus Helicopters is immersed in a climate much more positive than in the past two years have been disappointing. Several decisions have finally turned in favour of the builder as the authorization of the resumption of flights of the H225 Norway and Great Britain (1). This is also the case of the intention of Paris, announced in march last, to order the manufacturer of the franco-German “of 160 to 190” H160 militarized (2). A device still in development, that seems already a lot to seduce the market, estimated to be in-house (3). The commissioning of the H160, a program on which account many Airbus Helicopters to start, is expected in 2019.

In addition, Brussels has given in June its approval for the funding of the X6, the future helicopter heavy of the new generation and successor to the Super Puma (4). At the paris air show last June, the automaker unveiled the design of a demonstrator for a helicopter “50% faster than a helicopter conventional” called “Racer” (5). In mid-July, Qatar has confirmed its desire to buy the NH90, yet stuck in the sand for more than three years, according to our information (6). Finally, France and Germany have agreed to cooperate on the next standard of the Tiger (7).

Of the better on the commercial

It may not be as cyclical but it is always good to take. In a depressed market, the manufacturer continues it seems to gain market share. And the mix of heavy helicopters and light is very satisfying with more than forty units sold of the family Super Puma during the first half of 2017 (8). The hélicoptériste particular benefits of the implementation in the second quarter of a very large military contract in Kuwait, which was signed in August 2016 an order of 30 tactical aircraft-type Caracal (H225M) for 1.1 billion euros. This is also the case of Serbia, which ordered the end of December nine H145M and has put in force the contract in the first quarter.

In addition, Airbus Helicopters got to the living room Heli-Expo in Dallas a sixty orders and intentions orders. On this occasion, the leasing company Milestone Aviation group (GE Capital Aviation Services) has announced a firm order of 200 million euros on a twenty devices in the range (H135, H145 and H175). “The show HAI been less morose as that of 2016,” said Bruno Even. Finally, the manufacturer has also received in June an order for three H225 additional share of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG). In the first quarter, Airbus Helicopters has recorded 60 orders in 2017, of which 10 copies of the family Super Puma and 14 H145.

Commands to realize

Outside of the order’s French H160 expected in the medium term, the manufacturer may be subject to two major contracts in the coming months. Qatar, which the evaluation committee has confirmed the week of July 10, the project to buy 22 NH90, could accelerate or not the conclusion of this command under the leadership of Defense minister Khaled bin Mohamed al-Attiya. The case is to be followed with attention… especially as Qatar has been put under the ban of the six states of the region.

Finally, Airbus Helicopters also has a beautiful order in India to 2017 (with a bit of luck), but more probably for 2018 (9). In 2015, the manufacturer had been selected to enter into exclusive negotiations with New Delhi within the framework of a call for tenders for the supply of 14 aircraft for the coast guard, indian. A contract estimated at more than € 400 million. It offers the Caracal (H225M).

New programs that advance

End of the development of the H160, the development of the X6 and the demonstrator Racer, modernization of the Tiger… Airbus Helicopters, which is no shortage of projects to renew its range, is a lot of emphasis on innovation to outpace the competition. This is the case of the Racer, capable of reaching a cruising speed of over 400 km/h. The first flight is scheduled for 2020. This is also the case of future helicopter twin-engined X6, which is expected to have a very long radius of action to reach the oil rigs more and more remote, combined with a lower fuel consumption, compared to the current generation of helicopters. The goal is to simplify the access to the offshore platforms and to facilitate also the operations of search and rescue, and humanitarian missions.

This had already been the case with the H160 with his cell composite. “This helicopter marks a breakthrough in its design and its systems, from the nose to the rotor back”, had explained the constructor of Marignane in his presentation. Thus, the H160 is expected to be 50 % quieter than the Dolphin today, thanks to the innovative design of the blades Blue Edge developed in cooperation with ONERA. These last also allow the H160 to carry 100 kg of additional payload in comparison to helicopters equipped with blade classic, depending on the conditions of volume

Finally, Germany, which was until now very hesitant, finally returned to France in order to modernize the attack helicopter Tiger, a european programme (France, Germany and Spain). France and Germany have agreed to establish a cooperation for the next standard of the Tiger helicopter, as well as for its weapons, a missile tactical air-to-ground, developed from the technological building blocks of the missiles MBDA’s MMP (French), and PARS 3 (German). And if, in addition, Airbus Helicopters takes advantage of the positive climate between France and Germany (10), the turbulence will soon be a distant memory.

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