Heli Expo 2018: Order round-up


The whole concept of orders being announced at airshows is ridiculous. Any multiple order involves hours of negotiations and pouring over contracts. Customers have not just popped into the booth and signed a piece of paper. But whilst they do not deserve to be taken seriously, OEMs do. So who won HAI 2018?

Despite the helicopter industry’s overall positive expectations for the market going into 2018, the numbers of order announcements for some of the big-name OEMs at this year’s Heli-Expo in Las Vegas were stagnant.

Some of last year’s biggest orders came from lessors, such as Milestone’s €200 million Airbus order and Waypoint Leasing’s commitment to 16 Airbus helicopters. This year, neither of these lessors announced orders for additional aircraft from any manufacturer.

This is, perhaps, to be expected. Whilst the market is recovering, many lessors and operators still have a lot of aircraft parked as they try to find new missions to fly on. However, we did see a few orders worthy of note.

Airbus led the pack in the orders stakes, announcing more than 50 helicopter orders at the show, including from the H160s launch customer. This, though, is down from the 60 orders announced last year.

The largest order the French manufacturer announced was for 25 EC145e helicopters with Louisiana operator Metro Aviation.

Ben Bridge, executive vice president for global business at Airbus Helicopters said: “This was a very successful Heli-Expo with a lot of positive reactions from the market. We are honoured that our customers are renewing their trust in our products and services as key contracts have been signed, including Babcock as the official global launch customer for the H160.

“It is a testimony to how our focus on customer satisfaction, quality, safety and competitiveness is making a difference in challenging market conditions,” he added.

Airbus also partnered with digital charter service provider Blade as part of its urban air-mobility programme. This follows the company’s partnership with Brazilian operator Voom last month.


Leonardo closed off the conference with two large order announcements, one a 17-aircraft order including the Aw119Kx, AW109 GrandNew, AW109 Trekker, AW169, AW139 and AW189 models.

Seven of the aircraft will be flying on emergency medical services (EMS) missions in Europe, one of these is a AW169 order from UK operator Specialist Aviation Services in the UK, which also committed to a further four aircraft to bring its AW169 fleet to 12.

The other notable order from this announcement comes from Sloane Helicopters, which act as Leonardo’s official distributor in the UK. The seller placed an order for one AW109 GrandNew VIP and one AW109 Trekker – the first Northern European customer to have purchased the recently EASA-certified aircraft.

The second announcement was the biggest order Leonardo netted, a €120 million order from Chinese helicopter distributor Sino-US for 26 helicopters. Sino-US ordered seven AW119ks, 15 AW109 Trekkers and four AW139s, all for commercial use.

Leonardo has a long order book with Sino-US, including an order for 25 AW119ks and a mix of 30 AW139s and AW169s in 2016. This was followed by 10 AW109 Trekkers in 2017.


Newly rebranded Swiss manufacturer Kopter saw a lot of interest in its upcoming SH09 light helicopter, this was backed up with an impressive 40 orders for the upcoming aircraft. This successful showing brings the aircraft’s current order book to 34 firm orders and options, 29 pre-contracts and around 100 letters of intent.

In a market that is shifting towards the middle helicopter sector, Kopter’s SH09 orders demonstrate that there is still a market for the affordable light and light medium class.

The second prototype for the SH09 was one of the biggest attractions at the show. It was outfitted in an EMS configuration supplied by Metro Aviation. The final version will hold between five to eight passengers with a fast cruise speed of 260km, and Kopter expects to roll out the aircraft in the second half of 2019.


Whilst Bell has yet to disclose final figures, the newly rebranded manufacturer appears to have announced orders for 13 helicopters at the show. However, these figures are for the moment subject to change and will be updated when an official figure is announced.

The biggest announcement was a six-helicopter order for the company’s newly unveiled 407GXi with US operator Air Methods.

Bell also signed a purchase agreement with Brazilian operator Helisul Taxi Aero for four Bell 505 Jet Ranger Xs on 27 Feburary. The helicopters are expected to be delivered this year and be used for panoramic tourist flights across Rio de Janeiro and Foz do Iguaçu.

“The Bell 505 offers outstanding visibility for all five passengers on board,” said Eloy Biesuz, president, Helisul Táxi Aéreo. “It is the perfect aircraft to see some of the most-breathtaking views in Brazil.”


Sikorsky announced two deliveries at the show but no orders. It announced the delivery of one S-70i Black Hawk helicopter in base configuration to the city of San Diego and the delivery of its 300th S-92 to US operator Era.

Total orders:


  • Babcock: undisclosed H160 fleet order
  • Undisclosed US corporate aviation customer: 4 x ACH160
  • US Metro: 25 x EC145e
  • US Boston MedFlight: 3 x H145
  • Mexico’s Pegaso: 1 x H175
  • Germany’s HTM: 4 x H125
  • China’s Heliflite: 7 x H125 and 3 x H130
  • Japan’s Auto Panther: 1 x ACH130
  • Japans’ Noevir Aviation: 1 x H125
  • Japan’s Nakanihon Air Service: 1 x H135


  • Orders for an additional 26 helicopters worth in excess of 120 million euro
  • Seventeen aircraft across Aw119Kx, AW109 GrandNew, AW109 Trekker, AW169, AW139 and AW189 models (140 million euro)


  • Kopter recorded 40 orders and engagements for the SH09


  • Air Methods: Six 407GXis
  • Helisul Taxi Aereo: Four Jet Ranger Xs
  • Helicopters Inc: Two Bell 505s
  • Sacramento Police: One Law-enforcement configured 505 Jet Ranger X


  • Deliver one S-70i Black Hawk helicopter
  • Delivers Production Number 300 S-92 Helicopter to Era Group Inc.