Airbus Helicopters continues to predict a strong future for the H225, despite a year in which the airframer recorded no orders for the heavy-twin.
Although the immediate interest appears likely to come from the military market, the manufacturer also sees a civil resurgence for the type on the back of a shortage of spare parts for its main rival, the Sikorsky S-92, which has reduced availability rates for operators.
Bruno Even, briefing journalists on the company’s 2023 order and delivery performance on 23 January, said he was “positive and confident” that the H225 would demonstrate “good momentum” in the civil market.
Last year’s order bust followed a strong 2022 during which the manufacturer recorded 14 gross orders for the Super Puma family, which also includes the H215.
Once sharing the larger end of the offshore crew transport segment with the S-92, the H225 essentially exited that market following a fatal accident in Norway in 2016 which killed all 13 on board. Accident investigators later pinned the tragedy on a faulty gearbox.
Airbus Helicopters has developed a new main gearbox for the H225 – what it calls the eMGB – which is fitted to all new-build helicopters following certification in 2023. The component is also available as a retrofit option for operators.
Although the H225 has since returned to civil operations globally, it remains largely absent from the oil and gas market, save for use in certain countries such China and Vietnam.
However, Even argues that demand for the H225 and S-92 has been depressed in recent years by an oil and gas downturn triggered by low crude prices.
He says that the rebound in the price of crude seen since 2021 has led to the sector’s recovery “creating the need for new helicopters”, a spike in demand that has coincided with the S-92’s struggles, leading operators to seek “an alterative for this helicopter”.
“I am convinced there will be demand for the H225 in the future,” he says.
But Even is more circumspect when it comes to the North Sea, noting the “specific context and history” the H225 has in the region.
Any decision to redeploy the H225 there would likely be met with strong resistance from the offshore workforce, but Even adds: “The day there will be a need we will be there to deliver the H225 to provide the service to our customers.”
In the meantime, operators have been turning to new medium and super-medium helicopters to take on certain missions previously performed by heavies, a trend that was “well reflected in the bookings for 2023”. Airbus Helicopters recorded gross orders for 14 super-medium H175s last year, against eight in 2022, while sales of the smaller H160 more than doubled to 26, from 12 a year earlier.
Better news for the H225, at least in the short term, is seems set to come from military demand. The Netherlands in 2023 said it had selected 14 H225M Caracals to replace its current fleet of AS532 Cougars, although that contract has yet to be finalised.
In addition, Airbus Helicopters remains in negotiations with the United Arab Emirates over a stalled deal for 12 H225Ms.
The UAE announced in late 2021 that it intended to purchase the Caracal but reports emerged in 2023 that suggested the order would not proceed over localisation concerns.
However, Even insists the deal remains on the table, although he declines to comment on the nature of any discussions. “My priority is to convince [the UAE] that the H225 is the right helicopter.”
Meanwhile, the manufacturer continues to be hopeful of landing a major order from the German federal police for the Super Puma to replace a substantial fleet of AS332s and H155s. A contract decision was expected in 2023 but has been pushed into early 2024.
Even says winning the Bundespolizei tender is a “key objective” for the company. “We are working hard to convince the customer and sign this contract in 2024.”