Citing a dichotomy between the lower end of the light single market and a “high added value” in its product on the segment, Airbus has decided to terminate the H120 (nee EC120 Colibri) program.
Deliveries had been stagnating at a very low level for years. In 2016, five H120s were handed over, compared to 63 Robinson R66s. The turbine derivative of the R44 is much more affordable, especially for owner-pilots. But Airbus had, for years, been excluding the R66 and the H120 from its calculation when it worked out its market share for civil rotorcraft.
“We want to position ourselves on the highest added-value [products], . . . we are going to walk away from the lower end of the market where you see turbine helicopters derived from piston-engine helicopters; we are not playing on in this segment, it is a commodity market,” CEO Guillaume Faury said. The H120 is not longer on Airbus’ catalog but “we will keep supporting it,” he promised.
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The smaller the helicopter, the least the added technological value is interesting for the customer, David Prevor, head of marketing, explained. For example, an airframe that enables fitting a hoist induces an extra weight. It makes more sense on the H125 and the H130, the other two light singles in Airbus’ range. Light singles account for only 17 percent of the market in value and, with the H120, “we are talking about the lower end of that segment,” Prevor added. “Our helicopters are too sophisticated for that market.”
The last H120 was delivered in October from Airbus’ factory in Marignane, France. There, it used the same final assembly line as the H125 and the H130.
With a 36-strong fleet, the largest operator of the H120 is Helidax. A civil company, it provides helicopter training to French Army pilots. The Dax, southwest France venture is a subsidiary of Babcock MCS and DCI.