Safran Helicopter Engines bets on emerging markets

Safran Helicopter Engines, despite the downturn in helicopter sales, is making moves aimed at consolidating its market share and being ready when an upturn comes. In 2016, helicopter manufacturers in emerging countries achieved crucial program milestones, and the company formerly known as Turbomeca was on four of these programs.

Ardiden 3C engine
In 2016, the Ardiden 3C powered the first flight of the AC352 — the Chinese version of the Airbus H175. Remy Bertrand/Safran Helicopter Engines Photo
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The company did face headwinds last year with deliveries of only 708 turboshafts, which is comparable to 2015’s 718 deliveries, but significantly down from the 850 engines it delivered in 2014. The strong decline in the offshore oil-and-gas market — compounded by the grounding of Airbus H225 and AS332 L2 Super Pumas in the U.K. and Norway — was the first cause cited by Safran Helicopter Engines CEO Bruno Even for the lower number of deliveries. Also mentioned were phenomena including Brazil’s economic and financial woes, and some overcapacity in the U.S. As a result, workforce has been cut by approximately five percent, to 6,000. Safran has also ceased manufacturing activities in the U.S.

Kamov Ka-62 in flight
The Ardiden 3G equips the Kamov Ka-62, a medium rotorcraft in Russian Helicopters’ product range. Russian Helicopters Photo
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Nevertheless, the company’s market share is stable in helicopter engines, at 32 percent, according to Even. In the orders Safran received for single-engine rotorcraft last year, China outnumbered the U.S. for the first time. Even predicts a slow recovery from 2018 to 2019 and expects to be back to an annual 1,000 engine deliveries in 2020. The growth will be driven by the ramp-up of programs like the Bell 505 and also by emerging countries, Even said.

As a matter of fact, China, India and Russia were places where Safran turboshafts contributed to a combined four maiden flights in 2016. Namely, these were the Ardiden 3C on the Avicopter AC352 and the Arriel 2H on the Avicopter AC312E in China; the Ardiden 3G on the Kamov Ka-62 in Russia; and the Ardiden 1U on HAL’s LUH in India.

“This is evidence of a steady process of new program launches — these countries are preparing for the evolution of their market, which will no longer be only military,” Even optimistically emphasized. Moderating his own argument, he cautioned, “This process does not mean these civil markets will boom; you have to factor in other parameters like the standard of living and airport growth.” Still, Even forecasted that these emerging countries “will be the next growth hub, probably by five to 10 years.”

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