With five years as the chief financial officer of parent company Leonardo under his belt, Gian Piero Cutillo is now facing up to a new challenge as managing director of its helicopter division.

Cutillo was appointed just five weeks ago and the Dubai show marks his first major exhibition in the new role.

As well as having to deal with a flatlining market for helicopter sales, Leonardo has been battling its own internal problems which have seen the rotorcraft division – home to the AgustaWestland brand – singled out for poor performance in the company's recent third-quarter financial results.

Although Cutillo concedes that the division needs to improve in some areas to "better answer to the challenge of the market", he believes there is still a strong underlying business.

Leonardo Helicopters will show a year-on-year delivery decline in 2017, he says, as the operation battles not just a segment-wide slump, but production issues driven by "a lack of visibility" in its backlog.

Customers had previously provided lead times of up to 18 months when selecting specific variants or configurations, but that has now dropped to six months or less, says Cutillo.

"It doesn't allow you to plan production correctly," he says, noting that as a result, required components may also be out of stock.

That issue has been compounded by "teething troubles" with the production and in-service reliability of its new AW169 medium-twin, as well as the slow pace of European Aviation Safety Agency certification for mission equipment on the type.

Nonetheless, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210A-powered twin has continued to pull in orders, notably from UK operators for air ambulance missions.

Despite his short tenure at the division, Cutillo remains confident that its performance will recover. "I'm sure that we will show some recovery in orders, revenue and profit next year," he says.

"That's something I feel we can commit to; I am confident that we can do better."

Meanwhile, Leonardo is in the early stages of discussions with its Italian domestic customer over a future requirement for military medium-lift transport helicopters.

Cutillo rules out any clean-sheet development in the 10t or above segment, pointing to existing solutions such as the lighter AW149 or the NH90 from NH Industries, in which Leonardo has a 32% interest.

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Source: Flight Daily News