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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Arriel Milestone: Operators Choose Turbomeca Engine

Following an Oct. 27 handover of the 10,000th Arriel engine to the U.S. Army, Turbomeca invited Rotor & Wing for a wide-ranging update from company executives, including Chairman & CEO Olivier Andries, Turbomeca USA President & CEO Russ Spray, and Philippe Couteaux, director of clients.

By Andrew Parker, Senior Editor

Turbomeca USA President & CEO Russ Spray (left) and Turbomeca Chairman & CEO Olivier Andries prepare to present a plaque to the U.S. Army.

Turbomeca presented the ceremonial 10,000th Arriel to the U.S. Army Oct. 27 during an event in front of hundreds of employees in Grand Prairie, Texas. On hand to accept the engine—which will go into one of the Army’s EADS North America UH-72A Lakotas—were PEO Aviation Chief of Staff Randy Harkins and Lt. Col. David Bristol, UH-72A program manager. Also present was American Eurocopter President & CEO Marc Paganini.

Turbomeca Chairman & CEO Olivier Andries explained that while its original designers did not envision back in 1977 that such a wide number of applications would develop from the Arriel, there are several reasons for its success. Chief among these is the design of its compressor, while other factors include the engine’s reliability and performance. Andries said that Tubomeca has “capitalized on our existing architecture” by “squeezing the lemon” in developing multiple Arriel variants through the years—changing the coating, altering the turbine blades and adding new materials, for instance. When asked how many more times the lemon can be squeezed (the company recently developed the Arriel 2+, with the Eurocopter EC145T2 as its launch customer), Andries replied “no more,” pointing to the next-generation TBM800 as a future platform.

PEO Aviation Chief of Staff Randy Harkins (left) and Lt. Col. David Bristol, UH-72A program manager, accept a plaque marking the 10,000th Arriel engine. Photos by Andrew Parker

According to Andries, Turbomeca, which has a workforce of 6,000 employees worldwide, is aiming to deliver 1,000 powerplants across its engine lines during 2011, a 25 percent increase over 2010 deliveries of 800. The uptick also applies to the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) sector of the business, with an estimated 1,500 engines repaired in 2011, a boost from the 1,300 repaired the previous year.

“Basically we have suffered from the consequences of the economic crisis that occurred in 2008, and in the trail of this economic and financial crisis, the helicopter market overall has suffered—especially the light helicopter segment, although not too much the higher part of the market related to medium and heavy helicopters for the oil and gas industry.”

As a consequence, he continued, “Our production dropped in 2010. So we were at 1,000 engines in 2009, we decreased production to 800 in 2010, and in 2011 basically the message is: We’re coming back.”

Looking ahead, Turbomeca sees “growth in the coming years, which is a combination of the renewal market for the western countries, in the U.S. and Europe, and the new helicopter markets in all the countries that are emerging, like China.”

Andries added that Turbomeca “wants to leverage” cooperative efforts with India, China and other up-and-coming markets, including Malaysia.

“For example, at the moment, there are 600 helicopters flying in China for 1 billion, 300 million people. So it’s less than in Mexico [around 700 helicopters total], can you believe that?”

As China opens its airspace to more commercial operators, he continued, “There’s going to be a booming market for business aircraft as well as helicopters. We want to be positioned for that. India’s the same, Russia, Brazil, Malaysia and Mexico, so there’s significant opportunities that we’ll try to capture.”

Philippe Couteaux, director of clients and vice president/general manager of airframers, said that while the majority of Arriel business today takes place in North America and Europe, the mix will start to shift over the next decade.

“Take the example of China today, 600 helicopters—80 percent of those are military,” he said. “Look at India, it’s about the same, more like 90 percent. But that will change.”

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