Airbus aims to ramp up H125 production in Mississippi

The H125 is widely used by law enforcement agencies, air medical service providers, business-owner-operators and for utility missions. Airbus Photo
Airbus plans to produce twice as many H125 helicopters at its Columbus, Miss. assembly plant next year as it did in 2015. 
But while that would be a big step forward, it’s only the start of what may eventually come if North American demand for the single-engine rotorcraft increases as expected. 
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“We’re matching production with demand, and we have very positive thoughts about where the market is and what the demand will be,” said Doug Carriger, senior director of marketing for Airbus Helicopters Inc.
“But we’re also ramping that up in a smart way because we can still also get them from France if we have excess demand that we need to serve.”
Airbus plans to produce 24 H125s in Columbus next year, up from 12 in 2015, but the plant has capacity to produce about 65 a year. 
“We’re, of course, in a cyclical market right now,” Carriger said. “But we’re having good years in law enforcement, air medical and corporate VIP. 
“So we absolutely see demand, at least in the 50 aircraft range, in the not-too-distant future.”
H125 assembly for the North American market moved to Columbus from Marignane, France, in late 2014 in a bid to be closer to customers and to the market in general. Airbus Photo
The H125 is widely used by law enforcement agencies, air medical service providers, business-owner-operators and for utility missions. 
Its assembly for the North American market moved to Columbus from Marignane, France, in late 2014 in a bid to be closer to customers and to the market in general.
“We’re really excited about that development, and the primary reason is, North America and the United States in particular are primarily a single-engine helicopter market,” Carriger said. 
“So any given year, 60 to 70 percent of the aircraft delivered are going to be single-engine aircraft. So we know this market very well and the company trusted us to know the market, to do well by the production and let us bring it here, closer to the customers.”
The Columbus plant has more than 240 workers and does full assembly of the H125, as well as the UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter for the U.S. Army. 
Airbus delivered 27 Lakotas to the U.S. Army from its Columbus plant in 2015 but has the capacity to produce about 60 a year. 
There is an Army order backlog of 65 Lakotas to deliver in 2016-17, said Airbus senior communications manager Bob Cox. 
“So that production rate will be going up the next two years,” Cox said. 
The Columbus plant has more than 240 workers and does full assembly of the H125, as well as the UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter for the U.S. Army. Airbus Photo
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Demand for the H125 may depend in part on a rebound in the price of oil, which affects activity in the Gulf of Mexico – a very important single-engine helicopter market, Carriger said.
“About half of the aircraft operating in the Gulf of Mexico are single-engine, near-shore, continental shelf work,” he added. “So as that comes back, that has the ability to generate quite a bit of demand.”
The first H125 AStar produced at the Columbus plant went to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, a long-time customer that has been flying Airbus products for years, Carriger said. 
“We were really excited to deliver the first AStar off the line to them,” he said.
“I think the significance (of the Columbus assembly line) is that Airbus is investing heavily in North America,” Carriger added. 
“Between the plant in Mississippi, the recent plant in Mobile, Alabama – they’re all signs that Airbus is growing its presence and participates in the lives of the employees and the lives of the customers, and is a vital element of the aerospace industry in the U.S.” 

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