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Friday, March 1, 2013

Editor’s Notebook: Signs of Progress

By Andrew Parker

For many in the helicopter industry, the weeks leading up to Heli-Expo are among the busiest times of the year—second only to the actual event. It’s also one of the most exciting seasons of the year, as thousands come together to watch manufacturers and suppliers uncover their newest products and latest innovations.

Just about everyone looks for signs of progress, and decision-makers within the industry are predicting that 2013 will build on the momentum of the past couple years and continue the recovery from the low point of 2009.

The hard work that people within the industry have put in over the past three to four years is starting to pay off. While some manufacturers and suppliers wait to make formal announcements at the show, others have painted a picture of a healthy outlook for 2013 and into 2014.

In this month’s issue, Robert Moorman provides a snapshot of commercial market trends for the past 12 months (see “Let the Good Times Roll,” starting on page 36), while looking forward into the future.

Sikorsky is planning to detail its largest-ever single order of S-92s in Las Vegas, only a couple weeks after the first S-92 delivery under a 16-helicopter order to Avinicis Group, parent company of Bond Offshore Helicopters (see story on page 28).

Robinson Helicopter CEO Kurt Robinson anticipates that 2013 will continue a northward trend, with the Torrance, Calif.-based manufacturer selling 517 helicopters in 2012, up from 356 the year before. Robinson is currently on backlog for the R66 until Sept. 1, 2013 based on current production of five copies per week.

Bell’s introduction of the 525 Relentless was one of the biggest
announcements at Heli-Expo 2012. What will grab the headlines at
the 2013 version of the event?

Eurocopter is reporting €6.3 billion in revenues for 2012, or approximately $8.4 billion USD, a growth of 15 percent over €5.4 billion in 2011 (see story on page 16). The all-time high in revenue comes with 475 total deliveries in 2012, despite a steady decrease in deliveries each year since a high of 588 in 2008. Customer support activity (at 47 percent) has exceeded production (45 percent) in terms of business activity at Eurocopter.

Following the introduction of the 525 Relentless last year, Bell didn’t provide many details heading into the show about this year, but a recent report from parent company Textron indicates that revenues for the Hurst, Texas-based helicopter maker rose $139 million in fourth quarter 2012 in contrast to the same period in 2011. Segment profit went up $10 million, which reflects “higher volume and mix,” according to Textron. Bell’s backlog also increased to $7.5 billion, up $1.2 billion from the close of third quarter 2012.

AgustaWestland comes into Heli-Expo following the Feb. 12 arrest of Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi in Italy over corruption charges stemming from a $748-million contract with the Indian military for 12 AW101s (see story on page 12). Finmeccanica’s board of directors acted quickly to appoint Alessandro Pansa as CEO and chief operating officer to take over Orsi’s role. As of mid-February, current AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini was also under house arrest.

The annual “Russian Hour” returns to Heli-Expo this year on Tuesday, March 6 at 1:00 pm in room N110 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Russian Helicopters will display its advanced-technology Kamov Ka-62, which feature Turbomeca Ardiden 3G engines, and Mi-171A2 in the U.S. for the first time. In addition, the manufacturer plans to detail its new joint project with AgustaWestland.

Also in this month’s issue, Dale Smith highlights a sector that has continued to show strength throughout the global economic downturn. “Helicopters Allow O&G Producers to Go Deeper, Further Offshore,” starting on page 44, explores a market segment that is displaying little indication of slowing down.

There’s no shortage of excitement heading into this year’s Heli-Expo. If the next few weeks are as eventful as early February has been, we’re in for a “breakout performance” by the helicopter industry during 2013, which makes sense, considering this year’s show is in Vegas.

For Heli-Expo 2013 reports and photos before, during and after the show, visit www.rotorandwing.com

 

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