HAMPSHIRE, England–The Eurocopter subsidiary of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) plans to introduce a new technology demonstrator by the end of the year, the head of the company said recently.
“This year, in the autumn, we will conduct the first flight of a new technology demonstrator, but I will not disclose what technology this will be,” Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter’s president and CEO, told reporters here at the EADS pre-Farnborough Air Show media seminar. “We intend to come up with a new product…a technology, and demonstrate it every year.”
Innovation is Eurocopter’s key to staying on top, Bertling said.
“We are the number one helicopter-manufacturer in the world…but we expect that the Chinese, Indians and other guys are coming up,” he said. “15 years ago Bell was where we are today–we have to keep innovating.”
Eurocopter has already completed its vision for 2020, something EADS chief Louis Gallois mandated all divisions finish by the end of the July. Bertling plans to make Eurocopter a $5 billion company by 2010, and a $10 billion company by 2020.
Overall, EADS plans to double revenues from $40 billion to $80 billion by 2020.
According to Bertling, the best way to do this is by turning technology into customer value. “We have to enable the customer to perform the mission better than before.”
Eurocopter is continuing big expenditures in research and technology, focusing on typical helicopter-manufacturing concerns such as improving rotor blades and engines while reducing total weight and increasing performance and payload, Bertling said.
The company is also spending more on ways to be green. “We’re looking at big changes in noise and exhaust reduction…the kind of things that make helicopters not look like helicopters anymore,” he said.
The company’s future focus is not tilt-rotor, but Bertling said it is getting closer to “solutions today with about 250-300 knots while still keeping the helo plusses, that’s where we’re looking.”
Eurocopter expected a slowdown in the market this year, but Bertling said recently that turnover is tracking better than anticipated.
“We expected in 2008 that the market would slow down, but we should have 650-700 [bookings] by the end of the year, and we’re conservative on bookings…only counting them when there is a down payment,” he said. “2008 will be our second best year…we expect turnover and profit to continue to grow.”
Eurocopter has a presence in 20 countries and is in discussions with others to expand activities worldwide, Bertling said. He specifically mentioned big plans for growing industry in Brazil under Eurocopter.
Future acquisitions will not be big mergers with others since the company has about 53 percent of the market share, he said. Expect major external growth in the service area, he added. “There will be no big bangs, we will integrate a lot of them…two to four acquisitions a year is what we have on our plate.”
The company also plans to extend heavily in training, including opening pilot schools in China and Mexico. “85 percent of accidents are due to operational causes,” Bertling said. “The key is to improve things like [man-machine interface], training and simulators. There is a high customer value in saving lives…we are looking at major improvements.”
Of course, Eurocopter’s business model centers around the United States government, its biggest customer. While providing a derivative of the Eurocopter 145 to Poland and Canada is important news, the rampup of the UH-72A U.S. version, or Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), is huge. Army aviation is spending billions to replace OH-58 Kiowas and UH-1 Iroquois (“Huey”) helicopters with up to 345 essentially commercial-off-the-shelf LUHs (Defense Daily, April 15).
“LUH is a door opener,” Bertling said. “The Army sees it as a benchmark…expect the first sales under FMS this year,” he added. “Other [Requests For Proposals (RFP)] are not out yet…requirements are not closed–this could be another solution.”
Additionally, he said other U.S. forces are talking to the Army about increasing the LUH buy, not under a new RFP, but that the matter was between the services and he could not elaborate on details.