Paris Air Show 2015 helicopter roundup


Here are details of helicopter orders and announcements made during the Paris Air Show last week.

On June 15, UTC announced it will divest its Sikorsky subsidiary after the Board of Directors approval (which happened shortly after). Last year the helicopter business unit recorded a $7.5bn in revenue but its operating profit was halved ($261mn), primarily due to a one-off linked to the Canadian Maritime Helicopter Programme.

Airbus Helicopters announced on June 15, that Milestone Aviation Group (a subsidiary of GE Capital Aviation) ordered 28 H175 transport helicopters, out of which 10 are firm orders. This is the largest order for Airbus’ new super-medium-lift twin engine rotorcraft.

Bell Helicopter said it was confident that production of the V-22 Osprey will extend into the mid-2020s, due to domestic deals like the Navy’s carrier onboard delivery (COD) requirement for 44 V-22s to be contracted in the next 18 months, and Japan’s need for 17 of the aircraft. Other potential customers include Italy, UAE and Israel, while according to Bell and Boeing another 100 sales are possible in the coming years.

Bell Helicopters announced on June 15, it sees Eastern Europe as a prime market for its series of H-1 utility (UH-1Y Venom) and attack (AH-1Z Viper) helicopters, quoting countries that need to replace Soviet equipment like Hungary (7 Mi24 and 27 Mi-8), Poland (25 Mi-24), Romania (IAR-Brasov SA 330), and the Czech Republic (17 Mi-24, W3A Sokol and Mi-17Sh).

Russian Helicopters announced on June 15, that it will upgrade 80% of the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant (U-UAP), as part of its $5mn (?300mn) modernization plan for the period up to 2020. The facility specializes in the production of Mi-8AMT (MI-171) and Mi-8AMTSh (Mi-171SH).

On June 16, Airbus Helicopters unveiled its new X6 heavy helicopter concept, launching a 2 year definition period, while the entry into service of the rotorcraft is expected in the next decade. The future helicopter, supposed to be in the 11ton class category (or a little more…) should be able to transport around 19 passengers and will be powered by either Turbomeca or General Electric engines. It will also be equipped with Fly by Wire technology, as is the NH-90.

Airbus Helicopters announced on June 17 that the flight test campaign of its new H160 has now started, following the first flight which took place on Saturday 13, a couple of days before the start of the Paris Air Show.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) said on June 16, it was “working very closely” with several countries considering the T129 ATAK attack helicopter. Details were not disclosed. Potential customer includes Poland with its plan to procure 32 attack helicopters.

Sikorsky announced on June 16, it could sell a “large number” of helicopters to Saudi Arabia, after the country purchased 10 MH-60R Sea Hawks last month, for an estimated cost of $1.9bn.

Bell Helicopters and Milestone Aviation Group – a GE Capital Aviation Services company – signed a letter of intent (LOI) to acquire 20 Bell 525 Relentless helicopters. Deliveries are expected in late 2017.

Turbomeca (Safran) announced on June 16, it has been running extensive tests on its TECH3000 demonstrator components and modules since the beginning of 2015. Compressor technologies have already been validated while tests of combustion chamber and turbine are underway. The 3,000shp class engine is expected to deliver a 25 % improvement in fuel efficiency.

Rosoboronexport announced on June 17 that a Mil helicopter dedicated MRO centre will open in Peru in April 2016, as part of an offset agreement for the 24 Mi-171Sh helicopters deal signed in 2013 and worth $400mn. The company delivered to Peru another batch of 7 rotorcraft last month.

Bell Helicopter indicated on June 17, that it is in discussions with the US government to cap the number of Excess Defense Article (EDA) OH-58A-D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters it offers for sale to foreign operators at no cost, other than the expense of refurbishment and shipping. 630 units of the rotorcraft are to be divested; making Bell fear it could cannibalize sales of its own new helicopters.

On June 17, Thales launched its helmet-mounted display (HMD), Top Eagle, for the civil helicopter market. The system derives its technology from the company Top Owl and Scorpion HMDs, modified applied for civil use.

Bell Helicopter confirmed on June 17, that the Bell 525 Relentless first flight is scheduled for the coming weeks, having slipped from its initial target of late 2014. Entry into service is expected for Q1 2017.

Bell Helicopter announced on June 18 an order for another Bell 525 in VIP configuration to a customer in the Middle East.

Textron clarified on June 18 that it is not interested in selling its Bell Helicopter business, despite the current downturn in the commercial sector. In the meantime the company also declined to comment on whether it was bidding to buy Sikorsky.

On June 18, Turbomeca (Safran) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a joint venture to support customers in India and in the region. This company will provide maintenance, repair and overhaul for Turbomeca and HAL TM333 and Shakti engines installed on HAL-produced helicopters.

Turbomeca (Safran), the Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa) and the DEFLOC (Locação de Equipamentos de Defesa, S.A.) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on June 18, to support the Portuguese fleet of 12 RTM322-powered AgustaWestland EH101s (AW101).

Transportes Aéreos Pegaso established a framework agreement to acquire 10 H145 four-ton-class twin engine helicopters, becoming the rotorcraft’s initial Latin American customer. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2016 and take place over seven years.

PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) ordered 2 AS365 N3+ Dauphin twin engine helicopters, the company announced on June 15. The rotorcraft will be delivered within 1 year, and then be reassembled, tested, qualified, completed and customized by PTDI for search and rescue (SAR) missions.

NH Industries said it could win up to 100 additional commitments for its NH90 10.6-class military rotorcraft, with customers including France and Qatar. The current order total for the rotorcraft currently stands at 509.

On June 19, the Canadian federal government announced that the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) fleet of Sikorsky CH-124 ‘Sea King’ helicopters was being phased out, with the delivery that day of 6 CH-148 ‘Cyclone’ helicopters.