Impressions from the 2014 HELI-EXPO Conference
The Helicopter Association International’s HELI-EXPO 2014 conference in Anaheim, California, in the shadow of Disneyland, was indeed a fantasy land of helicopter industry activity. With attendance of around 19,000 down slightly from 2013’s record of over 20,000 attendees and 700 exhibitors, this year’s conference was in some ways a rehash of tone – cautious optimism for prospects in the civil rotorcraft sector, particularly for energy and offshore applications, and concern over the continued slow pace for military orders.
For the fifth year running, KippsDeSanto hovered among the exhibitors and attendees, comparing notes with various industry participants from across the supply chain and service lifecycle. Topics that were top of mind for the companies at the conference included:
- Bell’s New Offerings Lift Off – on the opening day of Heli-Expo, Bell received orders for 94 of its new light single engine helicopter, the 505 Jet Ranger X. Bell also announced the first orders for the super medium Model 525, which is scheduled for a first flight in late 2014, with an order for 10 aircraft from Abu Dhabi Aviation in the UAE. According to Bell, the Abu Dhabi Aviation aircraft will be used for offshore oil and gas support, emergency medical missions, VIP transport, and search and rescue.
- Airbus Helicopters Unveiled – the 2014 Heli-Expo conference witnessed a rebranding of one of the most prevalent players in the industry, Eurocopter, to its new moniker, Airbus Helicopter. Along with the other disparately-named segments of the aerospace conglomerate, Eurocopter donned the Airbus name this year. The company’s product offering is still one of the strongest and most comprehensive in the industry, with aircraft including the AS350, EC135, and Dauphin on the civil side, and the LUH-72 Lakota, Tiger, and NH90 on the military side. Airbus Helicopter had two new aircraft on display at its booth, including the 10-passenger AS332 C1e, featuring the new Turbomeca Makila 2B turboshaft; and the upgraded version of the EC225, which had been grounded in 2013.
- What to Come of Sikorsky? – rumors of a potential spin-off or sale of United Technologies $6+ billion rotorcraft business, Sikorsky, swept the industry in January. While no further news of UTC’s strategy for Sikorsky has been revealed to the public, Sikorsky has clearly been the recent laggard in the UTC portfolio. Sikorsky’s military-heavy product suite has been impacted by an austere defense spending environment, as 2013 revenues declined by nearly 8% from the prior year. Customers, suppliers, and competitors alike will be closely monitoring further developments on this story as the year unfolds.
Bell’s 505 Jet Ranger Airbus launched a refreshed EC225e