Airbus Helicopters’ new industrial strategy is a key aspect of the market position it will adopt in the coming years. This is reflected by the creation of Airbus Helicopters Industries in Romania and its dedicated H215 production plant.
The case of Romania
The helicopter market is changing fast. Customers expect the same level of quality and safety but at increasingly competitive prices. Given this backdrop, Airbus Helicopters faces the challenge of staying ahead of the competition without compromising on its commitment to excellence, which has been instrumental to it becoming the market leader it is today.
The creation of Airbus Helicopters Industries in Romania (AHIR) responds to this approach. Launched in November 2015, AHIR — a local entity fully owned by Airbus Helicopters — will devote its energies entirely to the manufacture of the H215 with the aim of making the best possible helicopter at the best possible price.
A new concept
Airbus Helicopters has extensive experience of the Romanian market. The Company already created Airbus Helicopters Romania (AHRO), its customer centre, in 2002 in partnership with the national Romanian manufacturer IAR. The proven expertise of AHRO’s personnel has led Airbus Helicopters to embark on a new phase and branch out from distribution, maintenance and retrofit activities and into mass production.
“In striving to reach that objective, we have come up with a new production concept and created a standard ‘favourite’ configuration,” explains Super Puma Programme Manager Hubert Vivet. A modern factory, set to employ 300 people and devoted entirely to the H215, is now being built in Brasov. “The building will house a modern moving assembly line offering reduced manufacturing cycles and costs, from which customers stand to benefit,” he added. “The first deliveries are scheduled for 2017.”
The H215 is gunning for the Mi8 and Mi17 replacement market. Several hundreds of these Russian helicopters are in service in eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia, and are mainly used in aerial work, logistics missions and peacekeeping support operations. “These are all markets where financial considerations are vital and in which the H215, with its exceptional cost-effectiveness and reduced operating and maintenance costs, can be a game changer.”
Previously known as the AS332 C1e (short-fuselage version) and the L1e (long-fuselage version), the H215 possesses all the characteristics that has made the Super Puma family a success story. A light but powerful helicopter, it offers exceptional range, power, speed and payload. With its shorter airframe, its ‘aerial work’ variant boasts a cargo sling with a maximum load of 4,500 kg, while the longer ‘multi-role’ version can accommodate up to 22 troops or 19 passengers. As well as delivering power, the H215 is also highly reliable and superbly equipped, featuring modern avionics and the 4-axis autopilot from the H225, the benchmark in the field.
Breaking into markets
Changes are also afoot in the company’s industrial strategy. For the first time in its history, Airbus Helicopters is entrusting a local entity with the manufacture of an aircraft in its entirety, from purchasing, manufacturing and part of the support and design office activities through to global sales.
Around 15 H215s will be produced every year at Brasov, accounting for approximately 15 to 20 percent of the annual Mi8 and 17 replacement market. Airbus Helicopters’ main objective in setting up a new industrial facility in Romania is to create competitive manufacturing conditions and achieve optimum delivery times—factors that could help Airbus Helicopters break into a hitherto elusive market.