Eurocopter's backlog for its still-to-be certificated EC175 looks set to grow in the coming days with the likely firming of a pair of options for the 7.5t helicopter.
Mexican operator Transportes Aereos Pegaso holds two options for the EC175 and it will convert these into a "formal contract" over the coming weeks "or at the latest January", says chief executive Enrique Zepeda.
It is aiming for delivery of the new helicopters in mid-2016, says Zepeda, to support deep-water drilling operations for Mexico's state-owned oil giant Pemex.
"I think the super-medium category that the EC175 is in will take most of the work of the of the EC225 or [Sikorsky] S-92," says Zepeda. He points out that the latter two types, in a typical 19-seat configuration, do not make the most of their potential payload in the Gulf of Mexico and are therefore "expensive" to operate compared with their rivals on the typical 140nm- (260km-) long missions.
The EC175 will debut in a 16-seat configuration, although Eurocopter has additionally proposed a high-density 18-seat version, putting it close to the capacity of the larger, heavier aircraft.
Pegaso operates a 100% Eurocopter fleet, including a number of EC135s which are used for shorter-range missions. Zepeda says he was surprised to see that one of the type had been involved in a recent crash in the UK. "There have been few accidents with the EC135s over the years and they have mostly been down to pilot error," he says. Its three EC135s have clocked up some 30,000h between them in around seven years of operation, he adds, achieving an availability of around 95%.
It plans to acquire a further three examples of the EC135 as fleet replacements, and an additional aircraft to help grow the business, he says. Two EC155 Dauphins are also on order for handover in 2014.
The 32-year-old business has an annual turnover of around $76 million and is targeting growth of around 8% per year.