A helicopter’s operational life can span a generation or longer.
The folks at Airbus Helicopter‘s North American headquarters in Grand Prairie play a key role in achieving that longevity, and in doing so nimbly, Airbus Helicopters’ VP of Business Development & Strategy, Sebastien Delmaire said.
Delmaire spoke on the topic of Airbus Helicopters’ work in Grand Prairie, following a French-American Chamber of Commerce-Dallas/Fort Worth lecture on Sept. 27.
“We’re very close to the DFW (International) Airport, which is very accessible for our customers,” Delmaire said, following his presentation. “We have a four-hour flight window to see all our customers. We have a parts/logistics center at DFW that’s open seven days a week. We can ship parts 24-7, via FedEx and UPS.”
“We’re very close to the DFW (International) Airport, which is very accessible for our customers.”
The company’s demand for customer service is substantial. Airbus Helicopters — a division of Netherlands-based Airbus Group –- supports nearly 12,000 helicopters operated by more than 3,000 customers in 154 countries.
Delmaire said the company stocks more than $100 million worth of helicopter parts at its DFW Logistics Center, from which parts are shipped via overnight delivery anywhere in North and South America.
Also supplying that service is more than 600 Airbus Helicopters employees at its Grand Prairie headquarters, which hosts the company’s helicopter and components maintenance and repair operations, and performs avionics repairs for Airbus’ fixed-wing aircraft.
The Texas location is one of the company’s three global regional customer support centers (the others are in Marignane, France, and Singapore), all of which provide spare parts and technical support to thousands of clients. Grand Prairie has served as a base for Airbus Helicopters and its predecessors (Eurocopter, Vought Helicopter Inc., Aerospatiale Corporation, etc.) since 1969.
AIRBUS HELICOPTERS’ CENTRAL U.S. OPERATIONS HAVE WORKED WELL
The Grand Prairie operation also serves as a hub for the company’s North American sales and marketing forces (which are stationed at various locales across the U.S.), has two flight simulators, as well as flight-testing facilities, Delmaire said.
Airbus Helicopters’ central U.S. operation has worked out well, also in part because of its proximity to contractors that support its operations, he added.
Recently, Airbus Helicopters made headlines for selling Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones his new H145 model, which has a plush interior that can be removed for work trips to Jones’ ranch.
The company made bigger news when its craft became first to land on top of Mount Everest, set a record as “the World’s Fastest Helicopter,” and used a gull-wing configured propeller blade (called Blue Edge) and a patented method of enclosing tail rotors, called “Fenestron,” to cut noise levels by about half.
“You need to produce this aircraft for 20 years, at least, if you want to break even.”
While speaking before helicopter enthusiasts and members of the French-American Chamber, Delmaire said Airbus Helicopters must constantly strike the balance between innovation (extending helicopters’ range, payload, efficiency, and decreasing noise) and financial realities.
“You need to produce this aircraft for 20 years, at least, if you want to break even,” he said, adding that the company must support that helicopter for 20 years, post-production.
Add to this that Airbus Helicopters can take up to 15 years to develop, even longer than many satellites and submarines, which can take 12 years to develop, he said.
Delmaire said another major challenge for innovating at Airbus Helicopters –- which employs 22,000 people worldwide –- is the company’s sheer size. Designers were told to literally go back to the drawing board.
“Innovation is part of our DNA. That’s why we’re still number one on the commercial market in the world, and in the USA.”
“They were encouraged to start from the beginning,” he said.
The company strengthens innovation by encouraging new hires to speak out with their new ideas, and by continuing to employ experienced workers who have already successfully implemented breakthroughs, he added.
“Innovation is part of our DNA,” Delmaire said in an interview following his presentation. “That’s why we’re still number one on the commercial market in the world, and in the USA.”
Also speaking to the French-American Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 27 was Airbus Helicopters flight test engineer Denis Hamel, and Jay Carter, CEO and Principal Design Engineer of Wichita Falls, Texas-based Carter Aviation Technologies.
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