In 2021, Airbus Helicopters logged 419 gross orders (net: 414) showing solid signs of recovery from the 2020 market situation which was heavily impacted by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. (2020 – 289 gross/ 268 net orders). The increase in orders for light helicopters, H125 and H130, reflects the recovery of the civil and parapublic market. The Company saw strong momentum from its home countries, with France ordering 40 H160s (civil and military versions), eight H225Ms, and two H145s, Spain ordering 36 H135s, and Germany procuring eight H145s for the Bavarian police force. Deliveries increased from 300 in 2020 to 338 in 2021, contributing to Airbus Helicopters’ preliminary 52 % share of the civil and parapublic market and confirming its position as market leader. In number of aircraft units, Airbus Helicopters recorded a net book to bill ratio above one.
“2021 was a year of major commitments for Airbus Helicopters. We committed to developing new products and services that fulfil our customers’ requirements such as launching the development of an innovative H160M for the French armed forces’ joint light helicopter programme and creating the new service package HCare Classics for customers that operate our legacy helicopters. We also delivered the first ever H160 to Japanese operator All Nippon Helicopter. It is our duty to innovate and to pioneer sustainable aerospace and to that end we have begun implementing the use of sustainable aviation fuel and pursued our urban air mobility journey with the unveiling of CityAirbus NextGen,” said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. “I’m proud of our teams that have worked hard to deliver all of these achievements. Their commitment to our Airbus values of teamwork, reliability, and integrity will enable us to continue working on securing the supply chain and to deliver on our continuous improvements to ease the operations of our customers. I especially value the trust that our customers place in our people, our products, and our services to help them perform their essential missions every day.”
The Company ramped up its five-bladed H145 deliveries in 2021 as well as delivered the first five-bladed H145 retrofit to DRF Luftrettung, a German helicopter emergency medical services operator, at the end of May. Other key deliveries the first H225M for Singapore in March as well as the first H225M in a naval combat configuration for Brazilian Navy, and the first NH90 TTH for Qatar which was delivered ahead of schedule. In North America, the US Army took delivery of the first UH-72B from the Airbus Helicopters factory in Columbus, Mississippi and the Lakota fleet reached the major milestone of one million flight hours.
Order highlights for 2021 consist of 93 H145s and 52 H160s including the first batch of H160Ms for the French armed forces as well as 10 H160s for the Gendarmerie Nationale – the first law enforcement customer for the model. Airbus Helicopters also expanded its partnership with The Helicopter Company in Saudi Arabia, which added 20 H145s and 6 ACH160s to their growing fleet of Airbus helicopters. The H225 saw 2021 kicking off to a good start with its long-standing customer, the Japan Coast Guard, ordering an additional two helicopters to its fleet in March.
Airbus Helicopters’ suite of HCare offerings continue to convince customers of their value add with new and returning customers such as Air Methods who signed an additional contract in February to cover 80 EC135s. The Company expanded its range in 2021 with HCare Classics, a custom-made set of services for its legacy fleet of approximately 2,000 in-service H120, Dauphin, Puma and Gazelle helicopters. HDataPower is an example of Airbus Helicopters’ ongoing commitment to digitalisation and harnessing the benefits (time savings, higher fleet availability, optimised costs) that it can proffer to customers with Helionix-equipped aircraft by leveraging data generated by helicopter systems.
According to Airbus helicopters, 2021 was an essential and exciting year for innovation and product improvement at Airbus Helicopters. The H125 performance increase received both its EASA and FAA certification enabling operators to take full advantage of the 10% power increase provided by the Arriel 2D engines. The Company also added the H175M to its military product portfolio. The VSR700, Airbus’ unmanned aerial system, began its flight envelope expansion ahead of sea trials later this year.
For the manufacturer, 2021 was especially instrumental to the Company’s decarbonisation roadmap. The helicopter Flightlab started flight testing new technologies, including the engine back-up system which not only aims to deliver safety improvements but is also a fundamental first step on the road to hybridisation. Airbus Helicopters also launched a SAF User Group dedicated to the rotary-wing community in an effort to accelerate the deployment of biofuels, began using sustainable aviation fuel for its training and flight tests at it main sites in France and Germany, and ended the year by flying an H225 with one engine powered by 100% SAF. One of the key highlights came in September 2021 at the Airbus Summit when Airbus Helicopters unveiled CityAirbus NextGen, its new prototype designed to deliver zero emissions flight in urban environments. The fully electric vehicle for the Urban Air Mobility market is just one of the reasons Airbus Helicopters is looking to recruit 500 people in 2022.