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Swiss manufacturer Kopter, creator of the upcoming light single SH09, has revealed Lafayette, Louisiana, will be the home of its U.S. subsidiary.
The move, announced by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Kopter Group CEO Andreas Löwenstein at Helicopter Association International Heli-Expo 2019, will see Kopter take up residence in the 84,700-square-foot production facility at Lafayette Regional Airport vacated by Bell in August 2018.
Löwenstein said the site was chosen “for several reasons,” including its proximity to well-established operators and supporting companies, easy access to a qualified workforce, and for the facility itself.
“We have here a turnkey solution,” the told media following the announcement. “We have to do some transformation — it’s quite limited — but it’s a facility which has been built to assemble and deliver helicopters. We have basically all the main features of the facility that are already in place, which makes us gain a lot of time for the industry setup.”
The company’s manufacturing headquarters in Mollis, Switzerland will produce SH09 subassemblies — particularly those relating to dynamic components, with the Lafayette facility serving as a final assembly and customization line for the aircraft. It will also be responsible for all North American deliveries and customer support.
“We are delighted that Kopter chose Louisiana and Lafayette for the assembly of a dynamic new aerospace product,” said Governor Edwards. “The SH09 helicopter will be highly competitive in the marketplace and provide outstanding performance, great passenger and cargo capacity, and superior engineering and design.”
Currently, Kopter has 25 orders from U.S. customers for the aircraft, which is set for certification in 2020, with first deliveries scheduled for later that year. Kopter believes the U.S. market will represent about 50 percent of SH09 sales for the first decade of production.
“We consider the U.S. market [as] being the core light [helicopter] market; it will be very important for us,” said Löwenstein. “This is the reason why we will set quite an important facility here.”
Kopter revealed the creation of a fully owned U.S. subsidiary, Kopter North America LLC, in July 2018. Christian Gras is the CEO of this subsidiary – in addition to his responsibilities as executive vice-president for Kopter Group – and Larry Roberts is the president of sales, marketing and customer support.
The manufacturer began its search for a location to base its U.S. subsidiary with a lengthy list of 38 possibilities, said Löwenstein, and this was aggressively refined. “Louisiana was by far the most attractive place,” he said. “All in all the attitude of the authorities, the facility, the localization, the access… In the equation, Louisiana was getting out the clear winner.”