LABACE: Helibras poised to begin civil helicopter production

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Helibras expects to start building Eurocopter EC225s in Brazil in 2015 or 2016, after receiving final approval from French the authorities to transfer the production certificate.

The move allows the firm, which is jointly owned by Eurocopter and the state of Minas Gerais, to add another product line to its Itajubá factory, with the eventual goal of designing and building new helicopters for the Latin American market.

"It's our plan to build [new] helicopters in Brazil," says François Arnaud, vice-president of sales and marketing for Helibras.

Late last year, the company began delivering the first of 50 EC725s as part of a tri-service order for Brazil's armed forces. Assembly of the EC225s, the civil variant of the EC725, can begin after military production winds down and clears space, Arnaud says.

credit - helibras 

 Helibras

Helibras is aiming the 11t 19-passenger helicopter at Brazil's booming oil and gas industry. Thirteen EC225s are already in service in the Brazilian helicopter fleet. Helibras, meanwhile, signed a memorandum of understanding last year with Belo Horizonte-based Líder Aviação to buy up to 14 more Super Pumas.

Helibras also sees opportunities to sell other helicopter types to the Brazilian military. The navy has requirements for more helicopter trainers and light utility aircraft, for which Helibras is offering the AS350 B3e Ecureuil and EC645, respectively, Arnaud says.

Although the Brazilian government offers tax incentives to defence contractors with 60% local ownership, Arnaud says that Helibras has no plans to change its ownership structure.

The voting shares are split between Eurocopter (70%), the Minas Gerais government (25%) and Brazilian investment group Bueninvest (5%).

Assembly work is focussed on EC725s for Brazil's armed forces