Government orders for helicopters in the homeland security, parapublic and emergency medical services (EMS) sectors are offsetting the downturn in corporate business orders, Olivier Michalon, vice president of customers for Europe and Central Asia, told Rotor & Wing during Helitech 2011 in late September. He is responsible for country markets that stretch from western Ireland to the Pacific. Eurocopter has five subsidiaries within that region: UK, Spain, Romania, Russia and Kazakhstan.
“The further east you go, the more those countries are looking to replicate the west in terms of modern, government service and parapublic helicopters,” he said.
The countries around the Caspian Sea have newfound wealth from oil, gas and other minerals, and have ambition to modernize. Countries such as Kazakhstan—five times the size of France with a population of only 15 million—require a modern helicopter EMS operation. And although the country is close to Russia, it is also at the international crossroads between east and west and wants to increase its stature. Kazakhstan signed an agreement with Eurocopter in October 2010 to establish a joint venture that will assemble EC145s in the country, including the long-term purchase of up to 45 helicopters over a six-year period.
Discussions with Russian authorities on all levels are also progressing, although large-scale opportunities have yet to materialize due to the value placed on Russia’s internal rotorcraft industry, which has recently been reorganized under the Russian Helicopter Federation. Eurocopter’s footprint in the UK is enlarging and the company feels well positioned, due to its penetration of the UK police helicopter sector, to become involved in the new search and rescue (SAR) competition, which Michalon views as one of the major projects in the coming years.