How the OEMs are affected by Covid-19


Helicopter manufacturers in Europe have been hit heavily by the coronavirus this week, whereas those in the US remain largely unaffected, according to company representatives speaking to Helicopter Investor.

The ‘Big Four’ manufacturers – Airbus, Leonardo, Bell and Sikorsky – delivered two very different reports of how the virus was affecting their business; depending on which side of the Atlantic they were based.  Both Airbus and Leonardo had to pause production as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Conversely, the US-based Bell and Sikorsky reported business and usual.

The earliest to respond to the crisis was Italian manufacturer Leonardo, which asked issued an emergency management plan on Sunday (March 15), which saw all production activities halted for two days (Monday March 16th and Tuesday March 17th) as facilities are cleaned and sanitised. Prior to this, it had barred many workers from non-crucial business travel towards the end of February.

Airbus also paused helicopter production at its facilities in Spain and France on March 17th for four days in order to implement stringent health and safety conditions for its workers. The new safety measures include temporary closure of the facilities for sanitisation, stricter travel regulations and more flexible working for employees affected by school closures.

Across the Atlantic

Across the Atlantic however, both US manufacturers claimed there was no significant impact on day-to-day business.

A Sikorsky representative told Helicopter Investor that operations and supply chain are currently unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic but were taking precautions to prevent potential exposure. These measures included minimising travel and asking some employees to work remotely or self-isolate.

The Texas-based Bell has also avoided disruption so far. But starting from next week, it will be offering flexible working arrangements for employees who are able to do so. This week Bell’s manufacturing and production, service facilities and delivery centres have been operating on regular schedules without interruption.

Home countries

Leonardo’s home country of Italy is now one of the worst affected countries. Yesterday, the country overtook China as the country with the highest number of deaths from the virus, with more than 3,400 confirmed casualties. The number of cases throughout the country has grown substantially over the past few weeks, resulting in a country-wide lockdown on March 10th.

France is the country with the seventh highest number of cases, reporting 10,000 affected by the coronavirus. It implemented a lockdown on Tuesday this week.

The US is the sixth most affected country by the virus with 14,373 total cases. However, this equates to only 43 total cases per million people. The worst affected states are New York, California and Washington – where neither Bell nor Sikorsky have a substantial presence.

As of today, March 20th, there have been around 10,400 casualties resulting from the Coronavirus worldwide.

You can keep up with the latest coronavirus developments in the business aviation and helicopter industries live on Corporate Jet Investor’s live blog.

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