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Airbus Helicopter UK Goes From Strength To Strength By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.

 

 

Another interesting and very positive press release from Airbus Helicopter UK earlier this week confirming that the Oxford based Airbus unit had defied [rotary] market conditions with yet another new high of 14 civil aircraft having been booked through 2017 is well worthy of further comment. The bottom line from this is that Airbus Helicopter UK has now been able to demonstrate year-on-year average growth in the civil market of 36% for the five years since 2013.

As a result of the excellent business secured over the past year Airbus Helicopter has reinforced its position as UK market leader with 46% of the civil and parapublic market. Interestingly, the news in respect of 2017 performance follows a long-term commitment made by Airbus in 2015 to invest in increasing its industrialisation in the UK.

Based at Oxford Airport, Airbus Helicopter UK is a relatively unsung hero within the Airbus Group and yet to see the operation and the high level of support that the company provides to operators of Airbus Helicopters in the UK really is eye opening.

Airbus Helicopter UK is an unsung hero of rotary power in the UK. The company provides high-quality products and services for all helicopter markets. Engaging in a range of activities including sales and marketing, design, development, customisation, final completion to end customer specification, flight testing, certification, training of pilots and technicians this is no small operation. The company provides full technical support, maintenance, repair and overhaul, retrofit, upgrades, spares and logistical support.

In civil helicopter market Airbus Helicopter already enjoys a 75% share of the UK’s police and emergency medical services market. Indeed, the company provides the majority of UK national resilience rotary-wing aircraft capacity and capability. I visited the company two years ago and was extremely impressed to learn about how the ‘fleet’ of EC135s and EC145s helicopters in use with police and other local services all over the UK provide such a wide range of missions that include search and surveillance, crime detection and prevention, air ambulance and other airlift facilities. Other uses for which the extremely popular EC135 and 145 helicopters are used includes working in support of utility companies including gas, electricity, off-shore wind farm, water, forestry and agricultural support. There is also in addition a sizable use of these aircraft in a private and VIP role capacity. Future uses could be expected to also include fire and rescue.

Airbus Helicopter UK also maintain an operation at Aberdeen covering the North Sea oil and gas market. The UK operation provides state-of-the-art technical and logistical support services, maintenance support and simulator training. Airbus Helicopters involved in North Sea operation include Super Puma. EC225 and Dauphin. Around 100 of these aircraft are thought to be operating in this area alone flying at a rate of approximately 1000,000 hours per year.

The Oxford facility itself provides one of the largest FAA and EASA 145 approved maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities in the world for servicing and supporting of Airbus Helicopter products. It is both modern and extremely impressive. Fixed hourly rate services tailored to ensure continuous operation of Airbus helicopters used in national resilience, emergency services, private, business, corporate and VIP are offered to customers. Safety and flexibility of service support requirement are crucial components of the various packages of support offered to customers. The bottom line is to increase helicopter availability and minimise both downtime and cost of operation.

Logistical support is provided in the form of providing a dedicated hub for parts supply that is in operation 365 days a year 24 hours x 7. In terms of technical support in the UK the company is available to provide all levels of support. Finally, in terms of simulator based training, the company provides a large number of synthetic based courses for students throughout the year.

The Oxford facility itself provides one of the largest FAA and EASA 145 approved maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities in the world for servicing and supporting of Airbus Helicopter products. It is both modern and extremely impressive. Fixed hourly rate services tailored to ensure continuous operation of Airbus helicopters used in national resilience, emergency services, private, business, corporate and VIP are offered to customers. Safety and flexibility of service support requirement are crucial components of the various packages of support offered to customers. Further increasing helicopter availability and minimising downtime and cost of operation of customer helicopters remains the top priority.

Logistical support is provided in the form of providing a dedicated hub for parts supply that is in operation 365 days a year 24 hours x 7. In terms of technical support in the UK the company is available to provide all levels of support. Finally, in terms of simulator based training, the company provides a large number of synthetic based courses for students throughout the year.

The press release from Airbus Helicopter UK provided a range of 2017 detail breakdown including:

Civil Helicopters:

“2017 has seen continued growth in the commercial market, including the export to an undisclosed European customer of two H125s in border security configuration, an area where Airbus Helicopters’ UK design team is recognised as having a world-leading capability.  In addition, the company welcomed the order for four, heavily customised H125s helicopters for Qinetiq and which will be used as the new single-engine helicopter for the Empire Test Pilot School.

 

The company also received orders for six new aircraft, a mix of single and twin-engine helicopters, in the private and business aviation segment, a core part of the company’s UK market and the result of the UK team’s expertise and offering in this sector.  Since becoming the European hub for the newly launched Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) last year, the company has set up an integrated sales network across Europe and inaugurated a new private and business customer facility at the company’s Oxford-based headquarters.

 

DEFENCE:

“The company’s success in the defence market was marked by achievements with UK Military Flying Training System (MFTS), where Airbus Helicopters UK delivered 25 H135 Juno – the highest number of H135s ever delivered to a single customer in a year. As aircraft service provider to UK MFTS, the company has now established its presence at RAF Shawbury, operating out of two hangars and where fully trained personnel are able to provide full maintenance and logistics support for the 29 H135 Juno helicopters.  Similar facilities have been set up at RAF Valley to support the three H145 Jupiter helicopters based there. In addition, in late 2017 the company signed the £100m Puma 2 Follow-on Support Arrangement contract with the option for an extension until the currently planned out of service date of March 2025. As a result, Airbus Helicopters continues to strengthen its partnership with the UK MoD, ensuring a strong and sustainable base for the future growth of Airbus Helicopters core activities in the UK”.

 

INDUSTRIAL GROWTH:

“Since the company’s commitment in 2015 to increase industrialisation in the UK, Airbus Helicopters UK has expanded its teams, services and operations on all fronts.  In support of the growing business and commitment to customers, the workforce has grown by more than 50% over the last four years. New services have been established to support maintenance for the latest, Helionix-equipped Airbus helicopters, while a new Helionix training simulator, at the company’s Oxford-based headquarters, helps pilots familiarise themselves with the full spectrum of advanced avionics and auto-pilot suite”.

 

Furthermore, following the launch of the company’s first UK research and development projects in 2015 (helicopter blade research through the Aerospace Growth Partnership and light, malleable armour through the Defence Growth Partnership) 2017 witnessed two new UK R&D projects being approved including the use of virtual and augmented reality in maintenance operations and secondly on autonomous deck landings.  The launch of these projects is scheduled for 2018 and will see Airbus Helicopters working closely with UK Government, industrial and academic partners to develop these capabilities

Today, Airbus Helicopters is by far the largest supplier of turbine helicopters in the UK including 100 helicopters operating with the Ministry of Defence, 100 per cent of the UK police helicopter fleet, as well as the majority of aircraft flying in support of the UK’s critical national infrastructure.

CHW (London – 28th March 2018)

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS

Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,

M: +44 7710 779785

Skype: chwheeldon

hwheeldon@wheeldonstrategic.com

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