Fort Erie in Ontario is an important and expanding hub for Airbus Helicopters and Canada is a top market.

Romain Trapp

PRESIDENT AND CEO, AIRBUS HELICOPTERS CANADA

March 22, 2017

What is the history of Airbus Helicopters Canada?

Airbus Helicopters Canada was established in 1984 and the company is currently the largest helicopter manufacturer in the world. Canada has the second largest and oldest helicopter fleet in the world and 90% of the fleet is used in commodity sectors. One in two helicopters manufactured in Canada over the last 15 years comes from Airbus Helicopters.

Airbus Helicopters in North America represents 25% of the company’s total deliveries globally.  Our Canadian operations are significant as we have a wide range of activities in the country. We provide overhaul services, such as dynamic component repair, to the entire Airbus Helicopter fleet worldwide. We also conduct composite manufacturing and we are the sole source supplier of 50 different parts installed on Airbus helicopters flying all over the world.

What are Airbus Helicopters’ capabilities at your facility in Fort Erie?

From Fort Erie, we offer a full range of maintenance services and support. In 2009, we expanded the size of our Fort Erie facility to add more composite manufacturing capabilities to our portfolio. In 2013, we won a contract to manufacture the engine cowling in composite for the H225 and H215 aircraft, leading us to further expansion. This year, we expanded our maintenance, repair and overhaul (dynamic component) workshop by 65%.

In terms of composite manufacturing capabilities, we recently invested in a new cutting table, significantly improving our efficiency, and reducing manufacturing waste. We have also invested in laser technologies, facilitating composite manufacturing jobs. Composite manufacturing has a competitive landscape, and as we operate in a low volume industry, we implement technologies bringing value to remain competitive in the market.

How does Airbus Helicopters Canada take advantage of the supply chain in the region?

Airbus Helicopters makes use of some local suppliers in Fort Erie and Ontario. For example, we leverage the metallic manufacturing capabilities of the local supply chain. However, for suppliers in Ontario to remain competitive globally, there has to be a consolidation of the supply chain. We are looking to reduce the number of Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, and thus companies must merge or partner to provide a wide range of capabilities at one shop. The consolidation of the supply chain is currently a global trend, but SMEs are adapting too slowly to this new reality.

What are Ontario strengths with regard to the aerospace industry?

One of Ontario’s strengths is the availability of a highly talented and experienced workforce. The people in the region are passionate and motivated as well as engaged in their businesses. The strength of our Fort Erie operations lies in the people we employ. The current challenge is to engage the younger generation at an early age in the aerospace industry and to retain the talent.

The government should provide stronger support to the aerospace industry in Ontario in order for the region to remain globally competitive. Also, Ontario should not be in competition with Quebec, but work together for the Canadian Aerospace industry to become a stronger competitor in the global aerospace market.

In 2016, the global demand for helicopters decreased. How is Airbus Helicopters Canada positioned in the current downturn? 

Since 2013, the market has decreased by 40% and Airbus Helicopters Canada has been affected by the economic downturn generated mainly by the decrease in oil and gas prices. However, we have fully compensated by increasing our market share, and through business diversification in the composite manufacturing sector where we won a substantial tender.

How will the trend towards UAVs affect the helicopter industry?

Going towards the future, UAVs will have a greater impact on the helicopter market, and Airbus Helicopters has invested to enter the UAV market with the right product. The Airbus Group has launched UAV programs both on the commercial and military sides of our business. Although we are still in the development phase, these are markets we follow closely.

What is Airbus Helicopters’ Strategic growth plan for the next three to five years?

We expect the market to recover in two to three years and Airbus Helicopters Canada wants to continue to be the helicopter provider of choice for our customers when the demand increases. Our goal is to remain the number one helicopter manufacturer in the world and continue to be recognized for our customer service. We also aim to retain our high market share in the future. We will continue expanding our composite manufacturing and maintenance & overhaul capabilities in order to improve the competitiveness of our product.

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