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Monday, April 1, 2013

Sizeable Fleet Purchase Orders, New Engines Dominate Active Heli-Expo 2013   

Offshore, EMS fleet purchases headline this year’s Las Vegas-based convention, which could set the stage for a number of completions, delivery and aftermarket developments at next year’s tradeshow, scheduled for late February 2014 in Anaheim, Calif.

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

Bristow EC175 at the Eurocopter booth.
 

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.

Sergei Sikorsky gives a copy
of his father Igor’s legendary
hat, “the world’s first crash
helmet,” to Bristow Group
President & CEO William
Chiles during an S-76D
unveiling event. 

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.

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.

Russian Helicopters Kamov Ka-32A11BC
on the show floor in Las Vegas. 
 

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.”

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.

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. (See story on page 10.)

Milestone Aviation Chairman Richard
Santulli (center) receives a plaque from
Turbomeca CEO Olivier Andries (right)
for an SBH agreement at Turbomeca’s
Heli-Expo press conference. 

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.

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.

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.

Show floor of Heli-Expo 2013 at the Las Vegas
Convention Center looking toward L-3, Milestone
Aviation and Sikorsky booths.

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.

Columbia Helicopters has added 10 ex-Swedish Department of Defense Vertols to its fleet, comprising six Boeing Vertol 107-II and four Kawasaki Vertol 107-IIs. There are now 27 Vertol helicopters in the Columbia fleet.

Ramco Systems released its MRO software for small-scale operators. Ramco Aviation for Cloud is a tailored version of the company’s general MRO software solution, but for small fleet operators. Ramco vice chairman and managing director, PR Venketrama Raja, said: “We understand that the needs of a small operator are very different and we have tailor made a solution that will address their needs most effectively, at a fraction of the cost of traditional software.” He said that over the past five months, five customers have signed for the software.

Rolls-Royce M250-C47E on display at
the company’s Heli-Expo booth. 

One of those was Hevilift Group, an Asia-Pacific aviation charter company with a fleet exceeding 50 aircraft. Colin Seymoour, Hevilift’s managing director, said: “This offers one solution for multiple operations. I believe it is a good fit for who we are and what we do. It will help us track the cost of our operation and maintenance to a high standard.”

Read additional coverage in the Rotorcraft Report section starting on page 10. For more photos, stories and videos from Heli-Expo 2013, visit www.rotorandwing.com

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