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OEMs Book Super-Medium Orders Despite Oil & Gas Downturn

By Staff Writer | July 1, 2015

Airbus Helicopters and Bell Helicopter each said at the Paris Air Show that they had booked orders for super-medium-lift aircraft despite the current downturn in the offshore oil and gas support market.

Airbus said Milestone Aviation Group had increased its combined orders and options for its H175 to 28, which it said is the largest order for the super-medium-lift twin.

Bell also said it had signed letters of intent with GE Capital Aviation Services, a leading global helicopter lessor, for 20 Bell 525s.

The orders come as the manufacturers are in what Airbus Helicopters President/CEO Guillaume Faury called a “difficult market caused by dwindling oil prices.”

Both the H175 and the 525 Relentless are targeted at the offshore support market segment, although Bell said the 525 also may serve Milestone customers in the aeromedical, search and rescue, and utility segments. Delivery of aircraft to Milestone is expected to begin in late 2017.

The H175 entered service in December and had accumulated more than 900 flight hours at the time of the announcement. It is designed, in its offshore support configuration, to carry 16 passengers to oil and gas rigs as far as 140 nautical miles offshore, and 12 passengers as far as 200 nautical miles.

The fly-by-wire Bell 525 has yet to make its first flight. Bell had initially targeted December 2014; it now says the first flight should come within weeks. The 525’s entry into service also has slipped from the end of 2016 to late in the first quarter of 2017. Bell says the 525 is designed to carry more than 16 passengers 250 nautical miles, and more than eight passengers 500 nautical miles.

Bell President/CEO John Garrison said the company has more than 60 letters of intent to purchase the 525 from customers around the world.

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