Rotary ups and downs
The Vahana self-flown, all electric VTOL aircraft takes to the air for its maiden flight but the Airbus X6 concept is put on hold
Airbus Helicopters is holding back launch of its X6 heavy helicopter programme due to ‘continued market uncertainty and the inability of suppliers to deliver disruptive technologies’ at present. In 2015 the company began a concept study for the X6, which is intended to replace the current 11-tonne-class H225 Super Puma, and forecast service entry in 2022-2023. But in January, outgoing Airbus Helicopters Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury said that, since the study phase began, the offshore oil and gas market has collapsed, and while military and parapublic markets for the H225 have stayed strong, there is considerable future uncertainty.
“We have seen an evolution in the structure of the market and we need to take that into account,” Faury said. “We have been unable to develop a solid and balanced business case for the programme… [and] concept studies have shown a lack of maturity from the supply chain to deliver disruptive technologies as envisaged. Until we find those appropriate solutions and market certainty, we will not launch a fully-fledged programme. It is not gone but it is likely to become something quite different to what we launched… More time and maturity is required”.
Last year the European Commission approved French and German launch aid totalling 377m Euros which Faury says has yet to be allocated. If Airbus does launch the X6, that funding could be used as planned, although if significant changes to the design were made “we would have to look again at those state investments.”
Airbus Helicopters X6 Concept