Looking to spur lagging sales, mfrs add innovative benefits to current models.
As govt buying continues, military contracts remain most sought after throughout rotary-wing industry.
Despite the generally grim environment for aircraft manufacturers, AgustaWestland had a productive year in 2009.
The company received orders for 22 AW139 medium twin helicopters from customers ranging from the Los Angeles Fire Dept to the Cypriot Defense Ministry. Orders also came in for 3 AW109s, 3 Grands and 9 AW149Kes.
The Italian Army contracted for 16 ICH47F Chinooks, with delivery to begin in 2013. The T129, a military attack/tactical reconnaissance model being built in partnership with Turkish Aerospace Industries and Aselsan, made its maiden flight.
The “ATAK Team” has 50 firm and 41 optional orders from the Turkish Land Forces Command. A development of the Lynx, the AW159 went into production with the first of 62 units ordered by Britain’s Ministry of Defence scheduled for delivery in 2011.
AgustaWestland also signed an MOU with Tata Sons for final assembly of the AW119 in India—a market where the company anticipates strong business. For the more distant future, the company’s research department is coleader of the Green Rotorcraft Integrated Technology Demonstration.
Part of the European Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative, the project aims to reduce external noise, improve engine efficiency and develop environmentally friendly flightpaths.
Bell Helicopter’s 429 received US certification in Jul 2009. At that point it already had more than 300 orders on the books.
Bell too had little to complain about in 2009. The company’s new 429 achieved certification in the US, Canada and Europe and arrived on the market with roughly 300 letters of intent. Over 60% of those orders came from international customers, which went a long way to reestablish Bell in the global marketplace.
Bell Helicopter Pres & CEO John Garrison.
It delivered 8 model 412s to Falcon Aviation Services in Dubai and sold 2 more to the New York Police Dept for use as air/sea rescue helicopters, plus 24 model 407s which the US Army will provide to the Iraqi Air Force. In combination with Boeing, Bell won a contract for the next phase of V22 Osprey support.
It began work on a multiyear contract worth $173 million subcontracting for aircraft reset and field maintenance support for the US Marine Corps. It was not a bad year, all things considered.
“Our 2009 looked good in terms of sales,” reports Tracy Biegler, Enstrom’s director of sales and marketing. “It was much less good for deliveries.
We had a lot of stop and goes. For example, India had 2 sales which we were not able to deliver, 1 for bureaucratic reasons and 1 because the customer’s funding fell through. “Instruments have always been tied to the private market, and that is falling apart. We’ve been getting into the government market in the past 6 or 7 years and we’re just beginning to have success there.
We did win a contract for the Thai Army for 16 trainers. Internationally, it looks like the military society will sustain us for the next four or five years. She concludes, “I don’t think the US commercial market will go anywhere for the next 9 months or so. Come 2011 over 2012, we will be significantly above where we were a couple of years ago.”
Eurocopter’s EC175 medium utility helicopter made its official maiden flight at MRS (Marignane, Marseille, France) on Dec 17.
Buzz at this company is about the EC175 medium twin and the Tiger antitank, fire support and armed reconnaissance helicopter. Both appeared at the Dubai Airshow last year, the EC175 as a mockup. The EC175 is being developed in cooperation with China’s Harbin Aircraft Industry Group.
Maiden flight took place in Dec 2009. Eurocopter booked a reported 111 purchase options when the aircraft was unveiled at Heli-Expo 2008. First deliveries are scheduled for 2012. The Tiger has a long history, having originated with a requirement issued by the French and West German governments in 1984.
Eurocopter Pres & CEO Lutz Bertling notes that 55% of Eurocopter’s US business is parapublic-based. Company products account for 53% of all worldwide civil and parapublic helicopter deliveries.
It finally went into operation in 2005 and is in service with the armies of France, Germany, Spain and Australia. Pakistan has also ordered the type. The Tiger’s first combat deployment was to the French 5th Helicopter Regiment in Afghanistan in Jul 2009.
Recent significant contracts for Eurocopter include the delivery to Falcon Aviation Services of the first EC135 “Hélicoptère par Hermès,” the delivery of an EC225 to Oman, additional EC135 offshore to PAS in Egypt, delivery of an AS350B3 Ecureuil to Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, and several Dauphin N3s and EC155s for Gulf States VIPs.
Investment fund Patriarch Partners acquired MD Helicopters Holdings in Jul 2005 and recapitalized the company as MD Helicopters. Internally the company has been focusing on supply chain product flow, internal process improvement and fuselage ramp-up.
Current models are the MD Explorer 8-place twin-turboshaft helicopter and the MD600N, 520N, 530F and 500E single-turbine helos. The Explorer, MD600N and 520N all use the patented NOTAR (no tail rotor) system, which reduces external noise and improves safety.
MD Helicopters built 52 aircraft in 2008 and anticipates continued growth in 2010 and beyond.