Record orders for Airbus Corporate Helicopters in 2021

Avatar for Oliver JohnsonBy Oliver Johnson | April 28, 2022

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 28 seconds.

Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) recorded its best-ever sales figures last year, as it received 103 orders — representing a 50-percent increase over its previous best year.

The ACH130 Aston Martin Edition features a range of interior and exterior designs created by Aston Martin. Adrien Daste/Airbus Photo
The ACH130 Aston Martin Edition features a range of interior and exterior designs created by Aston Martin. Adrien Daste/Airbus Photo

The entity — Airbus’s dedicated private and business aviation (PBA) helicopter brand — revealed the figures as it prepares to mark its fifth anniversary at EBACE, having been established at the event in 2017.

Its launch mirrored that of sister fixed-wing brand Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) in 2012.

“What we decided to do five years ago, based on the experience also of ACJ, was to say ‘OK, we want to approach these specific clients of Airbus in a different way,’ ” said Frederic Lemos, head of ACH, at a pre-EBACE briefing.

“Eighty percent of the PBA clients are private individuals, so they don’t have the same expectations [as business customers],” he continued. “They don’t have the same understanding, sometimes, of aviation; they are very demanding; they want to customize. They are not just buying an aircraft, they are buying an asset for their lifestyle, an extension of their lifestyle. What is the helicopter is going to bring me? How easy is it to deal with Airbus? . . . . It is everything that we are bringing behind the scenes to make the experience a very nice experience for our customers and delivering to the promise. And I think, at the end, yes, it’s paying off — it’s paying off in the numbers.”

In its first year, ACH received orders for 53 aircraft, with the following years bringing 68, 66, and 62 orders, respectively.

Lemos said the growth in sales in 2021 was part of an overall market rebound, but also a result of “planting seeds” and “delivering on our commitments.” He then highlighted the importance of the brand’s success in the intermediate single market segment. There, it recorded 68 orders in 2021: 30 ACH125s and 38 ACH130s.

“In this specific market segment, we are very strong, because not only do we have two products, but we have two very strong products,” he said. “We have a lot of owner-pilots in that category of segment, who find themselves more happy flying a 125/130 with all their friends looking in the same direction [with theater-style seating]. The aircraft is very friendly; it’s very fun to operate. The ecosystem [to support and operate it] is everywhere in the world, more or less.”

In January 2020, ACH launched the “Aston Martin Edition” for the ACH130 — a special edition of the type, equipped with a range of four interior and exterior designs created by Aston Martin. ACH has already sold 14 of these, and delivered six. An ACH130 Aston Martin Edition will be the centerpiece of ACH’s display at EBACE, where it will be joined by an Aston Martin car.

The 2021 sales also included nine ACH135s and 13 ACH145s. Lemos highlighted the successful entry into service of the five-bladed version of the ACH145, which will be available for a demonstration flight for prospective customers at EBACE.

Like the ACH130, the ACH145 is available in two versions: the standard “ACH Line” (a fully customizeable catalog offering); and the ACH145 Mercedes Benz Edition. Lemos said the latter will be receiving a “facelift” that will be available to market in 2023.

The ACH145 Mercedes Benz Style Edition. Airbus Photo
The ACH145 Mercedes Benz Style Edition. Airbus Photo

Finally, ACH sold 11 of its new medium twin ACH160s, and two ACH175s. Lemos said “several” ACH160s will be delivered this year in different countries around the world. While the type has been certified by the European regulator since July 2020, it is still awaiting approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. It hopes to have this in hand and deliver the first U.S. H160 this year.

In terms of geographical spread, ACH’s market remains successful in its traditionally strong areas: Europe, Brazil and the U.S. The three regions provide 80 percent of ACH’s orders.

“What you can see is when the ecosystem is favoring helicopters, then helicopters are flourishing; and where there is the wealth, but the ecosystem is not favoring helicopters, then the market is not [growing] as much as the potential shows,” said Lemos.

A prime example of the latter is China, which remains a slow-growing market for the VIP brand.

“The wealth is there, there’s numbers of prospects and clients, the country is large, interconnections will be much easier with a helicopter, but . . . helicopters are not flourishing,” said Lemos. “Aerospace is not free, and showing wealth is not something that you can easily do.”

Despite the positivity from 2021’s figures, Lemos said a couple of factors were likely to impact this year’s numbers. Firstly, the war in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions on Russia have cut a portion of ACH’s business for the foreseeable future.

“Even if it is only a little portion of our market in Europe, still this little portion will not be there,” he said. “I’m confident that this portion overall will grow, so it compensates for the fact that there is no more Russian market out there and no more Russian clients, either.”

Finally, lead times have increased on several platforms, potentially cooling the market a little.

“When you have slots immediately available, the market goes quite fast,” said Lemos, “so it could be a limiting factor to globally have lead times that are slightly longer than what we had in 2020.”

Notice a spelling mistake or typo?

Click on the button below to send an email to our team and we will get to it as soon as possible.

Report an error or typo

Have a story idea you would like to suggest?

Click on the button below to send an email to our team and we will get to it as soon as possible.

Suggest a story

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.