HYDERABAD. “The Indian helicopter industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, however the uses remain limited. In the last few years we have seen a phenomenal growth in the civil helicopter industry in India as the numbers have reached to approximately below 300 helicopters being operational in India today.
Looking at such increasing numbers we can say that the growth trajectory of Indian helicopter industry looks positive, given the size of the country, growing economy and diversity in terrain,” emphasized Xavier Hay (XH), Chief Executive Officer, Airbus Helicopters, India in an interview with India Strategic (IS).
IS: What is your take on the Indian Helicopter Sector?
XH: Airbus Helicopters already holds a major share in the Indian market specifically in the civil helicopter segment with one-third of market share. In the last four years we have sold around 30 helicopters in the country. These helicopters have been delivered across various segments for various missions. India is and has been an attractive market for helicopter manufacturers worldwide. Some of our key products that are currently being operated in India through various operators are AS350 B3, Dauphin, EC135 and EC145, which are majorly used to VIP and Corporate transport, Oil & Gas Missions, aerial work and passenger transport.
IS: What are the major challenges that you face in the Indian market?
XH: While we feel that the sector has a huge potential to grow in the coming years with tremendous commercial prospects, there are a few hurdles and bottlenecks that exists. Some of them being the high cost of operations, such as, turbine fuel, customs duty on import and export of helicopter applications of fixed wing air traffic rules etc and few others being the lack of infrastructure. While helicopters in the commercial space have a wide spectrum of operations and utilization, the requisite infrastructure is still non-existent in both, the metros and remote areas.
The other constraint that is a hurdle in the growth of this market is the lack of awareness of the various uses of the helicopters. A helicopter is not only meant for defence and public security, but is also essential in supporting key operations for industries such as Oil & Gas, Infrastructure, Firefighting, law enforcement, SAR etc.
There is a need to clear these regulatory challenges/bottlenecks to enhance and fast track the growth of this industry. We are hopeful to work together in order to address these challenges with the government and other relevant bodies to ensure a steady growth in India.
IS: Can you name one sector that you think has a huge potential in India and why? How is Airbus Helicopters working towards its growth in the country?
XH: While there is a huge potential across various sectors, one such sector which we feel has a bright future keeping the Indian terrain in mind, is Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS). HEMS is very well developed in countries of Europe, US, South America, Middle East and Asia. Having said that, India is still at a very nascent stage. Many of the Asian countries are already performing EMS role with Airbus Helicopters like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and Korea and we soon hope to see it in India too.
IS: What products are you showcasing at India Aviation this year and why? How do you think this product would be suitable for India market?
XH: We are showcasing one of our most sought after product which is AS350 B3e this year at India Aviation 2014. India is a very important market for Airbus Helicopters and hence we ensure to bring in the best of our products which are most suitable for this market keeping the various missions and varied geographical terrain in mind.
AS350 B3e is one such product which is a high performing member of the Ecureuil family and outclasses all other single engine helicopters for performance, safety and competitive acquisition and maintenance cost. It excels in all weather conditions, be it very hot in desert or very high altitudes and the coldest of regions worldwide. This aircraft has also broken record when a standard production aircraft landed on the top of Mount Everest.
Not only this, our AS350 B3e helicopter is extensively used in passenger transportation in the shrines of Amarnath and Vaishnov Devi in Jammu & Kashmir and also for helipilgrimage in Kedarnath and Badrinath.
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