Eurocopter is currently working on three “X” projects–the X indicating they are more or less secret–to replace the Dauphin and Super Puma and an undetermined model. Meanwhile, the EC175 program has slipped a bit more to the right.
Eurocopter anticipates that a solution to the main gearbox problem that has grounded the North Sea fleet of EC225s will be available next month. Offshore operators, especially those in the North Sea, have seen major disruption of their activities, as have the oil and gas companies that depend on helicopter transportation for crew changes on their platforms.
Eurocopter managed to boost revenue last year despite sagging deliveries, in part on the strength of its service activities. The Marignane, France-based manufacturer plans to ramp up production this year, with the aim of delivering 15 percent more aircraft than it handed over last year.
In 2012, revenue amounted to €6.3 billion ($8.4 billion), a 15-percent increase over the previous year. “This was the second year in a row with double-digit growth,” said CEO Lutz Bertling at the company’s annual press conference in Paris in late January.
In January, Beijing Capital Helicopter took delivery of its first Eurocopter EC135P2+ in executive livery, and the company is using it for a regular charter operation from the capital to Buddhist spiritual sites.
The charter was especially active during the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, ferrying passengers to the Wutaishan Mountain area, a well known site of Buddhist temples and monasteries about 160 nm from Beijing Badaling Airport. The Buddhist spiritual center is about a seven-hour journey by train from Beijing. The flight by helicopter is as little as an hour-and-a-half.
In presenting its annual results yesterday, European aerospace consortium EADS shed more light on Eurocopter’s performance last year. As of December 31, the French helicopter manufacturer’s backlog included 1,070 aircraft worth $16.9 billion. While this is steady in units, it reflects a 7-percent decrease in value.
The EASA has approved Eurocopter’s fix for the tail-rotor problems that have affected the AS350B3e AStar/Ecureuil light single helicopter. Operators will have to perform the modification–essentially removing an additional chin weight and installing a load compensator–within five months, per a recently issued AD. It will “restore the tail rotor dynamic load level,” down to the level found on previous models, such as the B3.
India’s Ghodawat Industries placed an order for a Eurocopter EC135 helicopter at the Aero India show in Bangalore this week. The aircraft will be configured for four passengers and is due for delivery in May, when it will replace the customer’s existing EC120 model.
Kitchener Aero Avionics obtained STC approval for a glass cockpit for the Eurocopter EC120. It includes the Garmin G500H flight display system with helicopter synthetic vision, an attitude heading reference system and air data computer.
Also STC’d in the EC120 are the Garmin GDL69/69A XM weather datalink, an Avidyne TAS-605 traffic awareness system and a Honeywell KRA-405B radar altimeter. All of these additional systems are controlled by and displayed on the G500H. Images from an external video camera or Flir system can also be displayed on the G500H MFD.
Eurocopter has taken over the aerospace activities of Heuliez, one of its suppliers, based in Cerizay, Western France. The 49 jobs will be regrouped in a newly created subsidiary, Hélicoptère Aérostructure Services. Since 2008 Heuliez has provided Eurocopter with “concepts derived from the automotive industry” for EC120, EC130 and EC175 doors, as well as the AS350 Ecureuil’s canopy.
The vital North Sea fleet of EC225 helicopters is expected to remain grounded until April, according to Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling. The aircraft have not flown since October, when gearbox failures on two different machines caused Norwegian and UK officials to prohibit over-water flights until a fix is identified.