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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sizeable Fleet Orders, New Engines Front and Center at Heli-Expo

By Editor-in-Chief Andrew Parker and International Bureau Chief Andrew Drwiega

HAI’s Heli-Expo played host to 60 helicopters and 736 exhibitors in Las Vegas while attracting 20,393 visitors during the three-day event in early March. The oil and gas sector was a principle beneficiary of many of the orders signed with the major OEMs during this year’s show.

The first official customer for Eurocopter’s new EC175 helicopter was revealed to be Bristow Group, with an agreement for 12 aircraft and provisions for further options. Eurocopter, which reported a total of 69 bookings at the show, has stated that it has firm orders for 29 EC175s. Bristow also purchased 10 Pratt & Whitney PW210S-powered S-76Ds from Sikorsky, with an option for another 16 of the type.

 

Commemorative Sikorsky S-92. Photo by Ernie Stephens

 

Alongside that, Milestone Aviation Group placed an order for 30 helicopters from Sikorsky, comprised of 23 S-92s and seven S-76Ds. The leasing firm also bought 14 EC225s and 5 EC175s—which, according to Eurocopter, increased its order backlog from Milestone to nearly $1 billion. An agreement to market Milestone’s portfolio supported by Eurocopter’s Parts-by-the-Hour (PBH) support services was also announced. Milestone has also teamed with Turbomeca to establish a Support-by-the-Hour (SBH) engine program.

Three separate customers announced orders for the debut of the mid-size, multipurpose twin-engine EC135 T3/P3. Air Methods and Norsk Luftambulanse ordered six each for EMS missions, while Aiut Alpin Dolomites was specified for mountain rescue.

 

AgustaWestland AW119Kx at Heli-Expo. Photo by Frank Lombardi

 

Bell Helicopter announced a total of 50 helicopter sales during the show, including an order for 30 aircraft—24 Bell 407s and six Bell 206L4—from Air Medical Group Holdings, which follows a December 2012 Air Methods order for 20 helicopters. Bell also reported purchases for 20 aircraft from international operators, and unveiled the 412EPI and 407GT, an armed version of the 407GX with Garmin avionics.

 

Tail rotor of the Metro Aviation-completed Life Line Eurocopter EC135. Photo by Frank Lombardi

 

During the annual “Russian Hour,” a briefing introduced two recently unveiled aircraft from Russian Helicopters, the Mi-171A2 and the Ka-62. At the outset of the briefing Helicopter Association International President Matt Zuccaro, welcomed the Russian helicopter industry to HAI by saying all helicopter operators share the same issues: “Our commonality is much closer than many people realize.” Mikhail Dubrovin then said: “Russian Helicopters has an order book for 820 helicopters with a combined value of over $12 billion. That is more than three times the amount of helicopters we delivered in 2011.”

 

Robinson CEO Kurt Robinson reported strong sales in 2012 during the company's Heli-Expo press conference, days before the certification of the R66 in Russia. Photo by Andrew Parker

 

Potential is seen in the BRIC countries, as well as southeast Asia. He said that “customers want more than sales; they want a comprehensive service, including training.” He pointed to expanding relationships with international OEMs, including an agreement to develop a 2.5-ton helicopter with AgustaWestland. The first test flight of this new helicopter took place at the end of last year, he added.

 

MD Helicopters CEO Lynn Tilton takes a question from Rotor & Wing's Andrew Drwiega (bottom right) during the company's Heli-Expo press briefing. Photo by Andrew Parker

 

Turbomecca unveiled its new Arrano 1,100-hp turboshaft engine on the floor at HAI, after a preliminary display by a team of acrobats. Its 3D graphic video also added a touch of the “wow” factor and many crowded around the display cabinet. Arrano (in the Basque language it means Eagle), otherwise known as the TM800, will power Eurocopter’s X4 next generation helicopter.

Rolls-Royce introduced its M250-C47E engine along with a new smartphone application and additional services for RR300 operators. The U.S. Navy is the military launch customer for the M250-C47E, and will incorporate it into the MQ-8C Fire Scout.

 

Rolls-Royce RR300 at the company's booth. Photo by Barry Schwartz

 

Honeywell’s 15th Turbine-Powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook, released at the show, forecasts a market for 4,900-5,600 new civil helicopters from 2013 to 2017. The report identifies strong demand over the next three years from all regions of the world, with delivery rates expected to reach 1,000 units per year.

 

Instrument panel of a Pima County Sheriff's Office AS350B3E. Photo by Ernie Stephens

 

Erickson Air-Crane President and CEO Udo Rieder inked an agreement to purchase the Aerial Services business of Brazilian oil & gas company HRT, Air Amazonia, which currently operates seven Sikorsky S-61s; five Bell 212s; and two Eurocopter AS350s.

This heralds Erickson’s entry into the medium helicopter market. Once the operational routine is established there is a possibility to widen the service to Petrobras, Brazil’s international energy corporation.

(See the full story in the April digital edition of Rotor & Wing.)
Related: Offshore News

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