Photo by A. Pecchi, courtesy of Airbus Helicopters
It appears that Abu Dhabi-based Falcon Aviation went shopping during the Dubai Airshow, occurring now and ending tomorrow. The operator is set to add more Leonardo and Airbus Helicopters aircraft to its fleet.
Falcon Aviation has signed up for its first lease experience, obtaining an operating lease for three AW169s from Milestone Aviation. The plan is to enter them into service during the first quarter of 2018.
“Falcon Aviation was the global launch customer for the offshore-configured AW169 and subsequently took delivery of a VIP-configured AW169,” said Leonardo Helicopters Chief Business Officer Carlo Gualdaroni. “We are thrilled the unique capabilities of this new generation model have met Falcon’s diverse operating goals and they have chosen to increase their fleet to include 11 Leonardo helicopters.”
After these three aircraft are delivered, Falcon Aviation’s fleet will comprise five AW169s, two AW189s and four more Grand and GrandNew light-twins. One of the operator’s AW169s recently became the global fleet leader in flight hours, according to Milestone.
Falcon and Airbus signed a new memorandum of understanding for H160s. The operator signed a letter of intent in May 2016 to purchase a batch of H160s, but added three more during the airshow.
"We [made] the decision to increase our request following a flight demonstration where we got the opportunity to test the H160’s excellent passenger flight experience first-hand,” said Raman Oberoi, COO of Falcon Aviation. "The H160 definitely meets our demanding standards for VIP traveling in terms of comfort.”
Airbus said it has three H160 prototypes engaging in flight testing. The manufacturer is preparing for certification with the expectation of entering the H160 into service in 2019. Final assembly is in Marignane, France; that facility is in the final stages of preparation for serial production. Airbus said customer support activities are also being developed. Among other activities, Airbus said it is using the prototypes and testing to check and improve the maintenance plan, digital work cards and technical documentations, tooling and other items.
The first H160s to enter service will be passenger transport-configured aircraft, including offshore. Following would be an air ambulance version. Fielding of a VIP version is set for 2021.
Falcon Aviation is a corporate jet and helicopter service provider, with its main operating base hosting VIP private charters and oil and gas-support aircraft.