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Global players ready to provide India VVIP choppers despite AgustaWestland deal cancellation

With the pace of government contracts being slow, Airbus Helicopters is also pursuing new market segments in the commercial side.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Mar 19, 2014, 06.59 AM IST
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With the pace of government contracts being slow, Airbus Helicopters is also pursuing new market segments in the commercial side. 
With the pace of government contracts being slow, Airbus Helicopters is also pursuing new market segments in the commercial side. 
NEW DELHI: Global chopper makers are not shying away from the opportunity to provide India with helicopters for VVIP travel despite the country cancelling acontroversial deal with AgustaWestland for .`3,546 crore earlier this year. India is yet to announce fresh round of bids for VVIP choppers.

Speaking to ET, Airbus Helicopters and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation said that they would participate if the bids open up again. At the beginning of the year, India had cancelled the deal with Augusta Westland to purchase 12 AW-101 helicopters after accusations of kickbacks.

"If there’s an opportunity to participate, we certainly will take part in it," said Xavier Hay, chief executive officer of Airbus Helicopters India, asubsidiary of the Airbus Group, on being asked whether such governmental contracts interest Airbus.

"Yes we will participate in the VVIP chopper bidding if it opens again. We were participants for the first time," said Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Arvind Walia, regional executive - India & South Asia, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. "It’s unfortunate that it turned out to be not a very fair competition," Walia added. "But it has thrown up another opportunity and it becomes all the more important for us because cabins for the S92 choppers that we are offering for the head of state in India is being made right here in India." Both the chopper makers said that they would increase manufacturing operations in India if such mega orders are bagged by them.

Hay also said that such contracts offer a chance for the Toulouse-headquartered chopper maker to fast track the development of India as one of the sourcing bases for its global manufacturing process.

"We are exploring the possibility of developing some kind of a sourcing base in India for the manufacture of our helicopters globally, but these things get fast-tracked if there’s a government contract since there’s an offset obligation," he added.

Sikorsky already has a manufacturing partnership with Tata Advanced Systems. The two companies, in a joint venture partnership, manufacture the main cabin for the S92 helicopters in Hyderabad. But Sikorsky is willing to invest more if it bags more government contracts, said Walia.

"Our joint venture with the Tatas has gone 100% indigenous in late 2013," said Walia. All the S92 cabins globally are now made in India. We are pursuing some of the deals, apart from the VVIP contract, but if it gets concluded, we will have to address the constraints on the production side and if we need to expand the capacity, we are ready to invest."

But with the pace of government contracts being slow, Airbus Helicopters, which till recently was known as Eurocopter, is also pursuing new market segments in the commercial side. The company is the market leader in India with around 33% market share of the 286 choppers flying in India.

Hay said that while the market is at a very nascent stage, Airbus Helicopters expects the market size to at least double by the end of 2020. Out of the 286 choppers flying in the country currently, 50% is for commercial use, 20% is for government use while 20% is used in the oil and gas sector.
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