Paris Air Show: Double certification adds shine to Safran’s summer glo…

The French engine manufacturer Safran has certified one of its new helicopter powerplants with a second set for EASA approval before the summer season ends.

Both milestones underscore how the company intends on bringing more technologically advanced, higher powered and fuel consumption reducing engines to the marketplace, with significant returns anticipated for the pair.

Breaking down business prospects for each of the turbines, clearly order pipelines are much healthier for the 1,100 to 1,300shp rated Arrano 1A compared to the the soon-to-be certified, 2,500-3,000shp range Aneto 1K.

A pair of 1A turboshafts power the in-development Airbus H160M medium which has been selected for the French military’s Joint Helicopter Programme.

That procurement will eventually see 169 of the aircraft fielded for the country’s army, navy and air force – a huge number of aircraft by any measurement, let alone military rotorcraft ones.

Compared to the Aneto 1K, installed on Leonardo’s AW189K super-medium and which the aircraft manufacturer has still to source a launch customer, its something of an understatement to suggest that the Arrano sits in a dominant position.

With Airbus also capturing 15 orders from a variety of civil markets in 2018 for the H160 and a number of other contracts understood to be signed but undisclosed, the aircraft is most certainly an indispensable platform for Arrano 1A production.

One small concern however to Safran and suppliers on the programme is an absence of oil and gas customers for the aircraft. Such is the severity of the issue that Airbus has previously conceded, orders will have to be secured or a production ramp up won’t develop in line with company expectations.

Offshore uncertainty aside, 1A business prospects have matured considerably since a slice of good fortune saw Airbus drop Pratt and Whitney’s PW210E engine as a contender for the earlier H160 programme, X4 in 2015, with Safran taking over powerplant soon after.

Fast-forward four years and the partnership with Airbus is finally beginning to realise its full potential.

‘Production has already started, we have delivered the thrusters and serial engines to Airbus for them to install on H160 [aircraft], which enables them to start deliveries after EASA certification [scheduled for the end of 2019],’ Florent Chauvancy, EVP OEM Sales at Safran Helicopter Engines told Shephard.

The engine also had an ‘unprecedented’ test campaign that included 10,000 test bench hours and 2,000 flight hours, with H160 prototypes, according to Chauvancy.

In terms of adding new contracts, gaining substancial market share besides H160 business, looks to be more of a difficult affair with Leonardo’s AW139 medium tied to the Pratt and Whitney PT6C.

According to Shephard Plus figures, ‘close to 1100’ production 139s have been made for civil and defence customers to date. 

‘We are listening to the market and we welcome discussions with other airframers,’ Chauvancy explained.

Looking at Aneto 1K prospects, adding more super-medium contracts poses a problem insofar as the H175 is also powered by the Pratt and Whitney PT6C and both the in-development Bell 525 Relentless and older AW189 variants rely on General Electric’s GECT7 engines.

‘I would have to let Bell and Airbus comment on that,’ Chauvancy said when asked about the possibility of the Aneto-1K potentially replacing one or other of the current engines powering the 525 and H175.

Oil and gas is also not helping Safran’s cause, in terms of driving more immediate business.

‘When you talk to operators and lessors, you have some companies that are going through Chapter 11 [bankruptcy protection procedures] and until those situations are clarified you aren’t likely to see a recovery [of the market], but at some point, there will be fleet replacements [of older heavy helicopters], with super-mediums,’ Chauvancy said.

For the moment, Safran is eagerly anticipating entry into service of the AW189K to gain more insight into performance of the Aneto-1K, while it holds out on positive outcomes from new market opportunities. 

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