Airbus’s future heavy helicopter now on backburner

Airbus Helicopters will not launch a heavy helicopter program in the near future, as the X6’s concept phase, which started in 2015, has not been deemed “conclusive.”

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The X6 was initially built to target oil-and-gas missions, search-and-rescue, VIP, and other applications. Airbus Helicopters Image
The X6 was initially built to target oil-and-gas missions, search-and-rescue, VIP, and other applications. Airbus Helicopters Image

Citing “a lack of maturity in the supply chain” to deliver on some “disruptive technologies” envisioned for a Super Puma replacement, Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury says the company will not proceed until solutions are found. He also mentioned “uncertain market demand” for heavy helicopters in passenger transport.

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Yet, 2017 was a very good year for the Super Puma family, with 54 military and parapublic orders. But the structure of the market has evolved more deeply than anticipated, in Airbus Helicopters’ view.

In offshore oil-and-gas, the downturn is the new normal. And the sustainability of the military and parapublic market is unsure, Faury believes. Therefore, the necessary conditions are not thought to be fulfilled for a program launch.

When announced in 2015, the 19-seat X6 was to feature fly-by-wire controls. It was widely expected to be powered by Safran Helicopter Engines’ new turboshafts in the 2,500-shaft-horsepower category.

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