Leonardo Helicopters managing director Gian Piero Cutillo is confident the airframer will achieve its goal of double-digit profitability by 2020 based on last year’s results. While the company cannot reveal specifics until it publicly releases its annual financial report on March 14, Cutillo told AIN in an interview last week that its 2018 helicopter deliveries were substantially higher than the 149 handed over in 2017, while order intake was also much higher.
Additionally, he noted that Leonardo had 40 percent market share (by value) in 2018 versus nearly 33 percent in 2017, continuing a growth trajectory that began in 2012. Cutillo said Leonardo has captured 40 percent of the VIP multi-engine market and that its North American fleet had more than doubled in the last decade, from just more than 200 to 450 helicopters. Notably, he said, Leonardo has ranked first in the U.S. for civil helicopter billings for the second year in a row. “I think we are on the right path. Both civil and military sales have grown,” he added.
“When I took over 18 months ago, it was a difficult time and I really have to thank my team for what we have achieved. We have made so many changes and we have achieved all of our targets in terms of orders, deliveries, revenues, and profitability,” Cutillo said. He attributed the improved results in large part to “making progress on meeting customer requirements.”
He said this is particularly true in the downtrodden offshore energy market. “When the market is shrinking, our products are more resilient than other products.”
Cutillo pointed to major sales successes over the last year as evidence of the market’s appetite for the company’s products and proof “we are considered reliable in the industry.” These include a $3.4 billion order for 28 NH90s from Qatar; $2.4 billion order for 84 MH-139s from the U.S. Air Force; $315 million order for 22 AW169Ms from Italy’s Guardia di Finanza; and orders from energy exploration support customers in Russia, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia for AW189s, AW169s, and AW139s.
“We have focused on agility, flexibility in manufacturing, response time, and level of quality in response to customers,” Cutillo said. Regarding the latter, he noted, “It is something we are focusing on in the near future. It is important for our presence in the United States and we want to improve on it. Our North American fleet has more than doubled so we must do more on customer support. It is really mandatory for us.”
In February, Leonardo opened a new parts distribution center, warehouse, and blade repair center in Broussard, Louisiana, and early next year it will open a new maintenance and flight training center in Philadelphia that will include simulators for the AW139, AW169, and AW609. “Training is extremely important and we want to do more,” Cutillo said.
Concurrent with improving customer support and training, Leonardo is working at developing a global real-time health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) for all of its helicopters. “Managed data is the future,” said Cutillo. “We are pushing hard on digitalization. There are material benefits for the customer.”
Meanwhile, Cutillo said Leonardo should finish the Aneto 1k engine upgrade program for the AW189 this year and is working hard to complete certification of the AW609 civil tiltrotor program. He said the AW609 could potentially have future military applications including for the U.S. FARA (Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft) program and potentially as a trainer for the V-22 tiltrotor.
Though Leonardo is working on electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) designs, Cutillo said it is too early to formally discuss it. “We are working on it, we continue to invest in it, but it is too early for us to make an announcement.”