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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Heli-Expo 2010 Blog

Ernie Stephens Photo
Rotor & Wing boiled down 4,000-plus words from our collaborate Aviation Today Heli-Expo Blog, which ran from Feb. 20-23 during the show in Houston. Aviation Today Publisher & Editorial Director John Persinos teamed with Rotor & Wing Editor-in-Chief Joy Finnegan and Managing Editor Andrew D. Parker to provide in-depth reporting from the show floor, as well as video updates with top executives at major helicopter manufacturers and suppliers. The version below appeared in the April 2010 print edition of the magazine.


Check out the full Blog at: www.aviationtoday.com/blog/at/?cat=10

Video Archive: www.aviationtoday.com/rw/heliexpo2010/videoarchive/

Heli-Expo Photo Gallery: www.aviationtoday.com/rw/heliexpo/photos/

Saturday, Feb. 20:

Posted by Joy Finnegan, Rotor & Wing

Bell’s Garrison Calls 2009 “Challenging”

Dale Smith, contributing writer for Rotor & Wing, provides this report: During his address to the media Saturday afternoon, John Garrison, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter, said that the company enjoyed record operating earnings and cash generation under a “very challenging environment.” Garrison attributed the company’s position to its balanced product offerings in both the commercial and military segment and a renewed commitment to being more responsive to the changing needs of its global customers. The newest example of Bell’s efforts is the 429 (see photo above), which has enjoyed excellent sales around the world, according to Garrison. It is the first helicopter designed through the Maintenance Steering Group 3 process with input from customer advisory boards. “The 429 delivers a true cost-effective solution to its customers,” Garrison said. “This is a truly amazing helicopter.”

Sunday, Feb. 21:

John Persinos, Aviation Today

Bell and AgustaWestland Come Out in Force

Andrew Drwiega, Rotor & Wing’s seasoned military editor, provides Aviation Today with the following reportage from Heli-Expo: Bell Helicopter Textron’s John Garrison, speaking before the opening of the HAI Expo, said that he expected growth in business to begin in 2012 and increase thereafter. The appearance of the new CEO at a press briefing represents a fresh approach for the company after being defensive about its business troubles in recent years. The newly introduced 429 is being hailed as something of a savior platform by Bell. Garrison said that the company would be ‘re-entering’ the European market with it and also saw potential in the Middle East, Asian and even South American markets.

Meanwhile, the business of keeping AgustaWestland on top of its constant challenge to match Eurocopter’s drive for world markets was the subliminal theme to AgustaWestland CEO Guiseppi Orsi’s press briefing. Count the moves to widen AgustaWestland’s reach, especially in new and developing markets: the acquisition of PZL Swidnik is seen as adding ‘a third leg’ to the company’s industrial base in Europe; the freshly declared agreement with Tata Sons over the formation of an Indian joint venture company to establish a final assembly line for the AW119 in Hyderabad; a joint venture through Oboronprom in Russia for a final assembly line of the civil AW139 in Pankhi. The success of the AW139 leads the smiles at AgustaWestland these days, but the company’s overall performance has steady across all areas, with parent company Finmeccanica recording a 183 percent growth over the period 2001-2008.


Andrew Parker, Rotor & Wing

Sikorsky Details New Innovations Unit

Stratford, Conn.-based Sikorsky Aircraft made several announcements and formalized various contracts today, but the one that really stood out was this morning’s details about its newest unit—Innovations. Sergei Sikorsky, son of founder Igor Sikorsky, began by highlighting the company’s innovative past, which spans almost 90 years. Then Innovations Director Chris Van Buiten provided a glimpse into what the division will research and what types of projects it will undertake, including a mission-adaptive helicopter. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has chosen Innovations to develop active rotor technology that will have the capability to “adapt to a changing environment” and vary its performance, based on operating conditions. Under a three-part contract, the first phase will involve $5.9 million for a 16-month design process.

Monday, Feb. 22:

John Persinos, Aviation Today

Consensus: Recession in Remission

I conducted a series of video interviews on the show floor of Heli-Expo and among the conversations, a recurring theme emerged: the recession is easing, giving hope to the entire rotorcraft industry. The mood in Houston has been upbeat and that’s not just false optimism. The interviews are available in the Blog and Video Archive.

Tuesday, Feb. 23:

Joy Finnegan, Rotor & Wing

Dinner with a Legend

Monday on the floor of the Heli-Expo seemed only a bit slower-paced than the day before and business was taking place. Era Group agreed to purchase 10 AW139 medium twin helicopters from AgustaWestland. Era Group boasts a large AgustaWestland fleet today, including 22 AW119Ke single engine, seven AW109 Power light twin and 17 AW139 helicopters.

Air Methods Corp. has ordered eight EC130 and four AS350B3 helicopters. American Eurocopter President & CEO Marc Paganini said: “Air Methods is a valued, long-time customer and we respect their continued commitment to the air medical industry and to incorporating advanced technology to increase the safe operation of their aircraft.”

A highlight of Heli-Expo 2010 for me will be the opportunity to spend an evening with a legend. Being a neophyte in the helicopter world I was surprised to get a call inviting me to dinner with Frank Robinson. A true original, Robinson embodies the entrepreneurial spirit and passion that makes the helicopter world so unique. With the announcement of the pricing for the R66, at $770,000, earlier this month, it looks like Robinson Helicopter will have more success.

John Persinos, Aviation Today

Last Day of the Show

Dr. Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter’s CEO, took time out of his schedule to talk to Rotor & Wing’s Military Editor, Andrew Drwiega:

Talk of the development of a larger heavy lift rotorcraft has rumbled along for a number of years. One of the studies into this subject is currently underway, driven by the European Defence Agency (EDA). It is focused on the Future Heavy Transport Helicopter and although it is being passively supported by the helicopter OEMs, they are not in the driving seat. Bertling explained that Eurocopter, as well as other OEMs, are supporting the study through the provision of information and attending meetings alongside government agencies. Although there is no pre-decision for a tandem rotorcraft however, Bertling now considers that a tandem-configured aircraft will probably offer the best solution to the perceived requirement, although again there is currently no formal request for either information or proposal from any official agency or government in Europe. (From April 2010 Rotorcraft Report)

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