Rotor & Wing International

2018 Executive Outlook

R&WI's 2018 rotorcraft outlook panel explores the state of the industry and what lies ahead.

Airbus Helicopters

Christopher Emerson, President, Airbus Helicopters Inc. and Head of Airbus Helicopters North America Region

Providing a superior customer experience is Emerson’s top focus. Emerson has made enhancing the customer experience at every step of the acquisition and ownership process a priority for the U.S. and Canadian teams. That means prospective customers will find a more receptive, attentive and simpler process to navigate when exploring and purchasing aircraft, as well as continuous and accurate communication during the completions process and on delivery timetables.

After the sale, customers will find much enhanced product support from highly trained tech reps that are available 24/7/365. Each operator is assigned a customer service manager that is available to ensure their support needs are addressed at every level. The web-based Keycopter ecommerce system offers easy online parts ordering, access to technical manuals and bulletins, and fleet management capabilities.

Chris EmersonPhoto courtesy of Airbus Helicopters

Emerson assumed his position in June 2015 after serving as SVP, head of marketing at Airbus’ commercial aircraft division in Toulouse, France. Previously, he was head of Airbus Future Programmes & Product Strategy, a position he held from 2010 to 2013. He led the internal project team that in 2012 established the Mobile, Alabama, A320 final assembly line.

In 2003, Chris was appointed SVP and CFO, charged with helping a small executive team establish EADS North America. He was responsible for preparing EADS North America for executing U.S. Defense Dept. contracts and was also head of investor relations for North America.

What rotorcraft industry trends do you foresee having a significant impact on your business focus in 2018?

We saw signs in the second half of 2017 that demand for new helicopters was beginning to improve somewhat after the extended slump in recent years. We believe that trend should continue in 2018, but we don’t anticipate a broad rebound in demand and sales as most of the key sectors of the industry remain fairly flat.

Our improved demand was on a couple of fronts. First, although the overall air medical transport sector remains slow, we booked significant orders from operators in that market, primarily hospital-based operations, for the Airbus H145. The H145, with its large cabin, high performance and state-of-the-art Helionix avionics system, is seen as the ideal replacement for older twin-engine air medical helicopters. We believe other operators, especially those working with hospitals, will gravitate to the H145 as they upgrade their existing aircraft or respond to new mission requirements.

In addition to recent successes in the air medical markets, private and business aviation customers have shown strong interest in both the light-twin market and with the H130 and H125 in the intermediate single-engine market. In recent years, the H130 has proven itself as the private aviation intermediate single-engine aircraft of choice while the H145 has quickly become the twin-engine aircraft of choice. The H145 has also attracted a number of corporate/VIP operators that put it to use for speedy transport, especially around and between urban centers. It makes an outstanding mobile office.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is setting an example with his H145 on how to use the helicopter to swiftly move around congested urban centers and above traffic. Jones’ helicopter is seen all over the geographically large Dallas-Fort Worth region.

We have seen a gradual uptick in demand from law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada, largely for the high-performance H125, which we produce in Columbus, Mississippi. A number of major U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies placed orders in 2017 for new and replacement aircraft and foresee steady, if not modestly stronger, demand from state, local and national agencies.

What lessons learned from 2017 will you use toward achieving your goals in 2018?

It’s hardly a new lesson, but great customer service from first contact all the way to aftersale product support is the surest way to hold on to customers and win new ones. You have to make customers feel valued and respected and that you are hearing and addressing their needs.

We are emphasizing this point throughout our operations in North America. We are working at every part of the company to improve our relationships and service to customers. It’s a process you have to work at continually. One or two poor experiences can really damage how the customer perceives your company and ultimately your products.

What new rotorcraft products or services currently in development or testing should we be on the lookout for in 2018?

At Airbus we are consistently investing in our services side to continue to meet the rigorous needs of our many and diverse customers. A large piece of this is continually working with our operators to reduce the cost of operations to improve our customer’s experience.

Airbus has the largest and most successful line of helicopters, and we are continuing to add to it. We are especially excited about the Airbus H160. It is the hottest new product coming to the market. With first deliveries slated for 2019, the H160’s level of interest in and the visibility of the H160 will rise dramatically. This all-new, clean-sheet medium twin-engine helicopter will bring the latest performance, technology, engineering and manufacturing enhancements at a considerably lower cost of operation to comparable aircraft.

At Airbus we believe the H160 is going to be of great interest in a number of key market segments including private and business aviation, offshore and air medical transport. The H160 will raise the bar for performance and capability in its class and, we believe, will be a great success both in North America and globally.

UTC Aerospace Systems

Mark Skarohlid, Vice President, Business Development at UTC Aerospace Systems, Sensors & Integrated Systems

Mission readiness. Two simple words, but a highly valuable operations attribute enabled by technology and support. This is one area that the UTC Aerospace Systems Sensors & Integrated Systems business unit continues to focus on for 2018 in the rotorcraft segment. Whether it is military operations, search and rescue, or civil operations, the expectation is that the vehicle and equipment are 100% available during planned uptime. UTC Aerospace Systems continues to invest in technologies and products that advance safety and mission readiness, which subsequently lowers operating costs.

Two of the most advanced new systems for rotorcraft from Sensors & Integrated Systems are the Pulse™ Health Monitoring System and Goodrich Next Generation Hoist. Pulse™ is a lightweight, scalable aircraft health system designed to meet a full spectrum of customer needs, from monitoring a single aircraft subsystem to full aircraft health management. The system is designed to power, process and record sensors and aircraft parametric data used for prognostics and vehicle health management. Our modular architecture is designed to allow configuration updates to the system with minimal impacts to certification, making upgrades and changes quick and efficient.

Mark SkarohlidPhoto courtesy of UTC Aerospace Systems

The Pulse™ system can integrate traditional analog sensors as well as arrays of our digital smart sensor system (S3), offering customers the flexibility to incorporate a variety of sensor types and optimize cost and weight. With the addition of our new Structural Health Monitoring suite, licensed from Metis Design Corporation, the Pulse™ solution provides both system and airframe structural monitoring for a complete vehicle health monitoring solution.

For missions that require a hoist, UTC Aerospace Systems has developed a new advanced product to enable increased functionality,

servicing and certification pedigree — all with mission readiness, reliability and safety in mind. The Goodrich Next Generation Hoist was designed after performing product and support “voice of the customer” sessions with more than 60 rotorcraft OEM and operator customers.

The use cases involved search and rescue, wind turbine servicing, and oil and gas operations, among others.

The expanded applications of hoist use that have evolved over the past 10 years have driven new requirements for our product. For example, offshore wind turbine servicing missions now include more than 10 times the number of annual hoist cycles as rescue operations. They also operate in a more corrosive environment. Search and rescue operations, by comparison, require longer cable lengths, higher loads and forward-speed maneuvering. The Goodrich Next Generation Hoist is designed to handle all these operational demands and ensure mission readiness.

UTC Aerospace Systems has made significant investments in expanding our capacity and capability for hoist training and servicing in Asia, Europe and North America to reduce turnaround times of MRO operations and asset availability. We have leasing and renting programs for our hoists, as well as programs for used and serviceable material.

A combination of advanced technology products and superior product support will enable the mission readiness our customers need and deserve. RWI