Paul Derby

A rapidly expanding European order book means that MD Helicopters (MDHI) is determined to make its debut appearance at Farnborough a resounding success.

Since buying the MD500 and MD600 civil lines from Boeing, together with the twin-engine Explorer range, the Dutch-owned manufacturer has experienced significant growth. "Farnborough is a great opportunity for us to do business," says MDHI chief executive Henk Schaeken. "We already have valuable customers in the UK and Europe is going to be a major market for us."

Industry sources say MDHI is close to finalising a multi-unit deal with the Dutch police which might be announced during show week, while it hopes to cement the lucrative relationship with UK-based Police Aviation Services (PAS), which already has five Explorers in the field and five more on order.

The Explorer continues to be the bedrock of MDHI sales, with 21 aircraft being delivered to customers between March 1999 and July 2000, with a further 45 orders placed. The company's first 18 months in business has also seen deliveries of nine MD600Ns, five MD520Ns, five MD530Fs and Four MD500Es."The Explorer has achieved everything we wanted it to and more," says Schaeken. "We see Europe, and in particular the law enforcement field, as excellent opportunities for additional sales. Our biggest task is to keep up with demand."

Meanwhile, MDHI has announced a second deal in the space of three months with Kaman Aerospace. The latest multi-year agreement, worth up to $75 million, will see Kaman supply composite rotor blade systems for the MD Explorer series. It calls for deliveries of rotor systems at the rate of one shipset per week, beginning in mid-2001.Back in April, Kaman signed a 10-year, $100 million deal to supply all MD500/600 series fuselages. "The outsourcing of sub-assembly work is part of our overall cost control strategy, allowing us to concentrate more on final assembly," says Schaeken, who also recently agreed the transfer of Explorer fuselage production from de Havilland of Australia to Tusas Aerospace Industries of Turkey.

Expansion will be a key goal over the next 12 months, with negotiations on-going between MDHI and Boeing for the purchase of five buildings it currently occupies for assembly, completion and delivery among other functions.

"That is significant for us," adds Schaeken, "both to demonstrate to our own people and to the industry at large that we are significant players and we are here to stay. We're also looking to increase production and add hangar and warehousing facilities to our existing site."

Schaeken says a Latin American demonstration sales tour undertaken earlier this year proved successful, although firm orders are yet to be finalised.

Source: Flight Daily News