Francisco Navarro
Director General
Airbus Helicopters in Mexico
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View from the Top

Helicopters Save Lives, Improve Mobility

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 17:54

Q: How did Airbus Helicopters fare in Mexico and Latin America through 2016?
A: 2015 and 2016 were difficult years for all participants in the helicopter industry. In Latin America, the oil and gas crisis hit Mexico, Brazil and other nearby economies. Exchange rates between the Latin American currencies and the dollar also hindered market recovery during those years. This situation affects the commercial, governmental and military segments.
Airbus Helicopters worldwide has maintained a safe position during these shifts and we even increased our market share in civil and para-public operations. We also gained market share in the governmental and military segments. All in all, Airbus Helicopters has become stronger and more successful than other entities despite the economic climate. In 2016, Airbus Helicopters booked 388 units and delivered 418, which are slightly better figures than the previous year. In the para-public area, we grew 47 percent and in the military market we increased our share by 15 percent.  
Q: What was Airbus Helicopter’s secret to remaining competitive despite economic hurdles?
A: There were many reasons we retained competitiveness, including our diverse product portfolio. We have the widest helicopter range in the market, from the smaller H125 and H130 to the medium and heavy twins. We have been working on the renewal of all these helicopter models, including the H145 and the H135. We have also developed the H175, which was operated first in the Americas by Transportes Aéreos Pegaso and is now a reference in the sector. We expect the next H175 to come to Mexico at the beginning of 2018.
We are working to maintain our efficiency, technology and versatility standards. Our second line of action is to keep close relationships with our customers by reinforcing the H-Care concept and streamlining our component delivery and inspection times. Our E-Support is now fully operational in Mexico and Latin America.
In 2015, we launched a renovation plan based on three pillars. The first is to enhance the safety and quality of our products, the second is customer satisfaction and the last is to focus on our products’ competitiveness. We launched several initiatives to reinforce the operational parameters of our fleet and today all these initiatives are paying off, keeping Airbus Helicopters at the head of the pack.
Q: To which market will the new H160 be addressed?
A: The new H160 will create an entirely new concept for helicopter operators. Our two prototypes accumulated over 360 flight hours by March 2017. The helicopter will be certified by 2019 and deliveries will begin in 2020. Potential clients have tested the helicopter and we received positive feedback. Many were astonished by the comfort, stability and low vibration levels.
This helicopter can enter every sector as it is well-adapted for demanding requirements. It is ideal for oil and gas operations thanks to its high performance and will be up to 20 percent more competitive in terms of fuel consumption than other alternatives for the sector. The H160 will also require less maintenance and have lower maintenance costs. It will have a capacity of 12 passengers and will be the most competitive product in the 120-nautical-mile range. Its comfortable and luxurious interior and extremely low levels of noise and vibration in the cabin also mean it is well-positioned for the civil and para-public sector. This helicopter shares avionics with the H135 and H145 and will be well-positioned for military missions, including exploration and search and rescue.
Q: Which helicopters are in highest demand in Mexico?
A: We have over 410 helicopters operating in the region with all models of the Airbus Helicopters family. The best-selling helicopters in terms of units are the single-engine models, the H125 and the H130, which represent over half of those units. More than 240 Ecureuils represent 60 percent of the fleet in Mexico, with 25 Dauphin Panthers, over 30 Super Pumas and 30 EC135s. We have high expectations for the H125, H135 and H145 families for the development of emergency medical services (EMS). Mexico has great hospitals and excellent medical service but being such a large country, it can lack the necessary infrastructure to reach remote areas. Mexico’s complex geography, which encompasses forests, mountains, deserts and jungles, means helicopters are often the best mobility solution. Helicopters are essential tools to provide medical assistance during natural disasters and accidents, and for transporting injured people. They can also transport organs in minutes and reduce mortality during complicated cases, saving lives.
Q: How can helicopters improve mobility in large cities in Mexico?
A: Large cities, such as Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, will see an increase in the use of private and business helicopters, providing mobility to congested areas. We want to participate in the “uberization” of society and make helicopter use available to a larger number of people. This reflects a global trend. Large cities, including San Paulo and Tokyo, suffer from long commuting times within the city. At peak hours, traveling by road is slow and inefficient. Helicopters are increasingly becoming a necessary mobility tool for society.
These cities will only continue to grow as Mexico receives significant foreign investment. The growth of companies generates a mobility need so Mexico is home to a significant number of companies willing to use alternative services.
Q: What main factors will drive the growth of the helicopter services sector in Mexico?
A: The Energy Reform is attracting more companies to the country and raising competitiveness in the oil and gas industry. The reform will increase the number of helicopter trips from Ciudad del Carmen to platforms. The H160 will be ideal for these movements but we already have a series of products for this market, including the H175, H145, H155 and H130. The H175 is conducting some missions that were previously impossible, such as moving 18 passengers over 241km. This helicopter has also been conducting search and rescue operators across 519km.
These best-selling helicopters are versatile and thus can be used for a wide range of applications in any terrain, including fire-fighting, ambulance services and police and military operations. They also have competitive operational costs and high operational availability, making them efficient tools for these missions. Their demand will remain slightly low but we are convinced that the H125 and H130 models will continue to be the best-selling helicopters in the market.
Q: What is the status of Airbus Helicopters’ plant in Queretaro and what are your plans for it?
A: Airbus Helicopters’ plant in Queretaro meets our expectations. The initial commitment for this plant totaled US$75 million dollars to employ 100 people. In 2016, the investment reached US$100 million with a workforce of 200 employees who generated over 160,000 working hours that year. This plant manufactures parts and components for the commercial aircraft A320 and A321 among others. As it is operating more quickly than initially planned, we are introducing programs to reinforce our presence in Queretaro. Our current target is to multiply our production in the country fourfold in the next five years. This plan runs parallel to other commercial opportunities.
Q: What are Airbus Helicopters’ expectations for Mexican aerospace?
A: Mexico is facing a complex situation due to the oil crisis, the dollar-peso exchange rate and the renegotiation of NAFTA but we expect to retain our market share. The country acquires approximately 15 helicopters per year and we hope to maintain this rate. Airbus Helicopters has been in Mexico for over 35 years and despite the country’s economic situation, our goal is to reinforce our local footprint. We are convinced that in the long term this part of the world will become increasingly important.