Marenco Swisshelicopter (MSH) has offered a possible glimpse of its future with the latest appointment to its board, as management continues to reshape the business following the departure of its founder in late 2016.
The new arrival, subject to shareholder approval, is André Borschberg, co-founder and pilot of Solar Impulse, the solar-powered aircraft which performed a circumnavigation of the globe.
"We are extremely honoured and proud to see that André shares with us the excitement for this very interesting project," says MSH chairman Philippe Harache. "It will go far beyond what it is today with a special look at new technology in this helicopter."
Borschberg says he is "very excited" to join the Pfäffikon, Switzerland-based company and is "passionate" to contribute "new ideas and concepts" to aviation.
"MSH Is a very good example of what can be done and what will be done in this field. It is a first step, but a very important step."
MSH has been developing the SKYe SH09, a light single-engined helicopter that is due to attain European certification and enter into service in the second half of 2018.
The appointment of Borschberg will lead to inevitable speculation that it may consider hybrid or all-electric propulsion for the helicopter in the future, but management are staying tight-lipped.
"It is a little bit too early to tell you what it will be but there are many opportunities in the future to present the development steps we have in mind," says Borschberg.
However, he does not rule out the possibility of hybrid or electric power. "It could be we have not decided yet – there are a lot of options. We are certainly looking at all these different alternatives."
MSH chief executive Andreas Löwenstein says it will be able to clarify its plans in about 18 months, but says it is a "precise project" that will use the SKYe SH09 as a base.
In the meantime, it plans to announce a rebranding of the company in the coming weeks as it looks to distance itself from founder Martin Stucki, who left the company on 5 December 2016.
Although the SKYe SH09 – the Marenco name – was Stucki's original idea, the company is working to transform itself into a "fully fledged helicopter manufacturer".
Harache declines to disclose the potential branding, but it appears likely that it will adopt its current acronym as the official company name.
In addition, later this year MSH will inaugurate its new production facility in Mollis, Switzerland, with staff to move in to the new plant in September.
MSH holds firm and tentative orders for 101 units of the Honeywell HTS900-powered helicopter. Later this week it will roll out the third prototype, to join its solitary remaining flight-test article.