In 2020, Airbus Helicopters logged 289 gross orders (net: 268) in a challenging market heavily impacted by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, reinforcing the company’s position on the civil and parapublic market. Additionally, the company delivered 300 rotorcraft worldwide despite the pandemic travel restrictions, resulting in a stable 48% share of the civil and parapublic market and thus allowing Airbus Helicopters to maintain its market-leading position thanks to its wide range of competitive products designed to enable customers to perform a multitude of missions.
“I am proud of our teams all over the world who adapted their ways of working to be there for our customers when they needed us the most, striving to help them to maintain their essential missions across the globe by delivering helicopters and the associated support and services they required. I would like to thank our customers for their continued trust in Airbus Helicopters,” said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. “We certified the five-bladed H145 and the H160 and laid solid foundations for our pursuit of zero-emission technologies with our CityAirbus demonstrator,” he added.
Key deliveries in 2020 included the first five-bladed H145 to launch customer Norsk Luftambulanse, a helicopter emergency medical services operator, at the end of September, followed by deliveries to DRF Luftrettung at the end of the year. On the heavy side, the first H225Ms were handed over to the Kuwait Air Force as well as the first NH90s for the Spanish Air Force. September also saw the 463rd delivery, on time, on cost, and on quality, of an UH-72A Lakota from the Airbus Helicopters factory in Columbus, Mississippi.
Order highlights for 2020 consist of 84 helicopters for the best-selling H145, including 17 UH-72B for the US Army, the first Fenestron and Helionix-equipped versions to be ordered. The H135 achieved solid sales with 33 units and also received the EASA certification of an alternate gross weight as well as a new single pilot IFR cockpit layout at the end of 2020. Milestone Aviation and Heli-Union both became new customers for the multi-mission H160, ordered to address a wide range of missions including offshore transportation.
The NH90 had a successful 2020 with the Bundeswehr placing an order for 31 naval helicopters to replace the ageing Sea Lynx fleet due to be retired. The French Armament General Directorate (DGA) confirmed the development of a new Standard 2 version to equip the French Special Forces and the first NH90 for Qatar performed its maiden flight at the end of the year.
On the customer support and service side, once again there was a strong showing for HCare support contracts, with new customers joining the ranks such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Air Methods Corporation. Facing the global pandemic, the company mobilised to keep its military and civil customers flying thanks to elevated levels of technical and logistics support, new distance learning solutions, and direct assistance from Airbus Helicopters in making protective equipment available to pilots and crews. A new AirbusWorld collaborative customer platform was launched based on feedback from customers, offering a streamlined user experience and new functionalities aimed at fostering open dialogue among operators and with the company.
Airbus Helicopters’ resilient business model allows the company to continue investing and preparing the future. In 2020, innovation milestones included the first fully automatic flight of CityAirbus, a demonstrator that will play an important role in developing zero-emission flight and in preparing the future urban air mobility market. The VSR700, the company’s rotary-wing unmanned aerial system, performed its first free flight in July and autonomous deck-landing trials at the end of the year.