Friday 24 March 2023 - 5:44:40 pm

VIP helicopter market to grow faster than overall commercial aviation in next 2-3 years: Leonardo

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By Lina Ibrahim

DUBAI, 15th November, 2021 (WAM) -- The VIP helicopter market will bounce back to pre-pandemic levels "over the next two to three years" much faster than the overall commercial aviation industry, according to Leonardo, one of the top ten global players in aerospace, defence and security.

The Italian giant holds a global market share of over 40 percent in the multi-engine VIP helicopter sector in terms of deliveries. They have more than 900 VIP helicopters worldwide, performing private and corporate transport, charter and scheduled services, as well as government transport. Europe and Latin America are their biggest markets.

"We can say that in 2025, the (sales) of VIP and corporate helicopters in the world could reach up to US$1 billion, with a potential to be higher," Pasquale Di Bartolomeo, Chief Commercial Officer of Leonardo, told Emirates News Agency (WAM) at Dubai Airshow 2021.

The Italian company believes the Gulf region is important. Last month, in collaboration with the UAE’s Falcon Aviation Services, Leonardo launched a new innovative helicopter terminal, called Casa Agusta, which is being used for transport to and from Expo 2020 Dubai site.

"Considering the strong Emirati focus on modern and sustainable air mobility, Leonardo decided to launch in Dubai a new concept for VIP travel services," he said. "Casa Agusta features a strong sustainable, environmentally-friendly design and modularity using recyclable materials and, if required, it can be transported and relocated," he explained.

VIP helicopters segment is not the only production line of Leonardo. The company has over 4,500 of its helicopters in service worldwide, performing roles spanning from VVIP, emergency medical services, search and rescue, to offshore, law enforcement and military applications.

More than 260 of these helicopters, or around 6 percent, operate in the Gulf region, with more than 100 helicopters in the UAE alone.

Di Bartolomeo revealed that 90 percent of the UAE’s national fleet for institutional and VIP transport relies on helicopters designed and manufactured by Leonardo.

The Italian company has also provided integrated naval systems for combat management, defence systems, naval radars, fire control systems, missile electronics and military radios for more than 40 ships in the UAE, including Ghannatha, Baynunah, Falaj 2 and Abu Dhabi-class corvette, he explained.

"And based on this track-record, we announced the submission of an offer to Tawazun, proposing Leonardo as partner for the design and development of the UAE national Combat Management System, which will be the pillar of the UAE Navy’s future naval assets and it will ensure the legacy for the progressive upgrade to the existing fleet."

At the Dubai Airshow, which runs from 14th to 18th of November, Leonardo is exhibiting its AW609 TiltRotor, which is an aircraft designed and built to synthesise the helicopter’s operational versality and the aeroplane’s performance advantages. It other words, it takes off and lands as a helicopter, but then it turns its rotors and becomes an aircraft.

"We’ve entered the industrialisation phase with the first two production aircrafts under assembly," said Di Bartolomeo, revealing that the first production will be flying soon, without stating an exact date.

"There’s really strong interest for the AW609 in the region. Bringing the AW609 to Dubai is also a sign that we want to present it in this region and market, given the high interest shown."

The AW609 price is expected to range between US$20 million to US$30 million depending on configuration and optional equipment.