French is again being spoken at the Vergiate plant, where Leonardo technicians are preparing the AW109 Trekker in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) configuration that will be delivered at the end of 2020 to SAF Helicoptères and used by Normandy's Rouen Hospital.
Already confirmed as a leader in the VIP sector in the French market, Leonardo has reached an important new milestone thanks to its products’ competitiveness in each segment, its helicopters’ performance, its constant innovation, its widespread presence in the area and the passion of its people who, in its plants, work to provide solutions to those who land daily on hospital helipads from inaccessible places, providing assistance to those in need.
We interviewed the two key figures of Leonardo's Helicopters Division who made all this possible, Andrea Mirteto, Vice President of Global Sales Europe, and Federico Valerii, Global Sales – Head of Region Central Europe, asking them to tell us more about the French market and the latest success achieved by Leonardo.
Andrea Mirteto, Vice President Global Sales Europe – Leonardo Helicopters Division
When did the Helicopters Division first enter the French helicopter market? And how has it changed since?
Andrea Mirteto: We have been present in France for over 40 years. The turning point came at the end of the ’90s with the AW109 Power, making us the standard for the VIP segment and guaranteeing our presence in the field of helicopter medical rescue.
The introduction of the AW139 and of models such as the Grand, GrandNew and, today, the Trekker, represent a real change of pace. Our products’ great competitiveness, determined by their high levels of performance and technology in support of safety, have allowed us to become the benchmark for the VIP segment, to guarantee an increase of our share in the offshore segment and to become a significant presence in the HEMS market.
What are the Helicopters Division’s future plans in France?
Andrea Mirteto: We are working on several fronts in this country. Perhaps the most ambitious and challenging project is the fleet modernisation at several HEMS bases across France, thanks to the solid relationship we have built with leading operators and end users in the sector.
In addition, we are evaluating a project that could generate greater visibility of the Issy-Les-Moulineaux heliport in Paris, to create a "reference point" for the entire French and Central European VIP segment.
With Customer Support we are also strengthening our maintenance capacity, both by making use of Leonardo’s structures that already exist in neighbouring regions, such as that of Liège, and by strengthening synergies with local players, to adequately support the expansion of our fleet in the country.
The recent acquisition of Kopter will also allow us to compete in the future in the single-engine segment, currently dominated by our competitors.
Federico Valerii, Global Sales – Head of Region Central Europe Leonardo's Helicopters Division
Why has the Trekker been unrivalled in this competition in the French market?
Federico Valerii: Despite the strong response from the competition, our products remain a benchmark thanks to their distinctive features. In fact, our product range satisfies even the most demanding customers in each segment.
The Trekker represents our design philosophy: It is compact, with performance and load capacity typical of larger helicopters, latest generation avionics, great operational flexibility and low operating costs.
This allowed us to recently win the first HEMS contract in France with this model, surpassing helicopters in a higher weight class.
Which specific missions does Leonardo offer its range of helicopters for in France?
Federico Valerii: Leonardo's Helicopters Division is a leader in Corporate/ VIP transport, with around 15 twin-engine helicopters in service in France, out of a total not exceeding 25 units.
In the HEMS segment, a market where price leads operational choices, the Trekker is a valid alternative to the competition.
SAF Helicopterès, the giant of the segment in France, after a long and meticulous technical-economic evaluation, invested in the Trekker as a standard for light twin-engine helicopters, introducing a first important innovation to the fleet.
In 2015 Heli Union also increased its competitiveness in the Oil and Gas market by purchasing six AW139s.