Airbus has revealed its biggest commercial helicopter order in Italy, with the sale of 43 helicopters to rotary services firm Air Corporate at EBACE 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland last week.
The deal includes 40 Airbus single-engine H125/H130 helicopters plus three ACH160s with the same Airbus Line interior configuration. Air Corporate will also upgrade an existing order for two ACH160s to Airbus’ new Lounge interior. The new helicopters will be delivered over the coming years for a range of private and business passenger services as well as utility operations.
Asked whether this was the manufacturer’s largest European order, a spokesman for Airbus Helicopters told Helicopter Investor: “It’s not clear which is the largest order ever due to the varying conditions and option elements of different contracts.” Also, the value of the latest deal was undisclosed.
Explaining its order, Air Corporate said the H125 remained the “helicopter of reference” for aerial work missions in Italy due to its unrivalled performance. It said the H130 is achieving great success in Italy both for tourist flights and passenger transport. The Verona-based business also highlighted rising demand for the ACH160 in the Italian market. “The ACH160 is a beautiful, safe and comfortable helicopter and the Line configuration with Lounge package configuration guarantees elegance and, at the same time, excellent performance,” according to a statement from the Air Corporate board.
Speaking after the signing ceremony last week, Roana Grandi, president, Air Corporate, said the company’s priority was to continue growing its corporate charter business in Italy and to target expansion in Europe. Grandi saw strong European growth opportunities, notably in Spain and Greece and other countries. These opportunities would not be confined to business/corporate markets and are likely to include utility helicopter operations, he said. That’s why some of the order element for H125s and H130s will be later specified to be delivered in ACH configuration, with others for aerial work.
Thomas Hein, head of Europe Region, Airbus Helicopters explained what lead to the record-breaking sale. “This order is the result of the years we invested in building and maintaining a strong business relationship with Air Corporate. I am proud of the success of Air Corporate in further expanding its fleet and the private business aviation sector in Italy.”
The sale follows 28 orders from Air Corporate in recent years as part of the business’s continuing fleet expansion. Over the past two years, Air Corporate has received 17 Airbus helicopters. These deliveries have included the first of two twin-engine H135s.
Airbus delivered its first helicopters to Italy 50 years ago. The manufacturer now has 90 customers in the country and a fleet of more than 240 helicopters in service.
Air Corporate offers a range of helicopter services to clients throughout Italy. Its services include: passenger transport, helicopter management, maintenance, buying and selling aircraft, flight school and helicopter consultancy.
Meanwhile, the latest order follows the sale last month of 50 H160s to Chinese helicopter lessor and operator GDAT. The H160s will be deployed mainly in the energy sector, including transport to offshore oil and gas platforms, wind farms and harbour piloting plus emergency medical services (EMS) and other municipal public service missions.
Commenting last month Parapex Media described the 50-helicopter sale as the biggest single civil helicopter market order by value (not by volume) when considering announced orders to end user customers. The biggest order by volume was in June 2017, when Bell announced that Shaanxi Helicopter signed for 100 Bell 407s, according to the consultancy.
Above: An ACH130 operated by Air Corporate. 40 H125/H130 helicopters are included in the last week’s deal.