Airbus Revamps HCare Support and Services Portfolio

Airbus Helicopters
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Airbus Helicopters (Booth 7750, Static S19) is revamping its HCare customer support program to be more flexible and customizable, the French rotorcraft manufacturer announced today at Heli-Expo 2022.

“Customers told us that they did not like the one-size-fits-all approach," said Christoph Zammert, the company’s executive v-p of customer support and services. “The HCare Smart and HCare Infinite programs were perceived as too rigid, too complex, and not very understandable. So we have reshuffled and repackaged HCare to make sure it is as flexible as possible.”

The redesigned HCare program is more modular and offers customers the ability to pick and choose according to their needs and “the level of risk they would like to transfer to us—the OEM,” according to Zammert. It starts out with HCare Initial for customers beginning operations with a new Airbus helicopter or taking delivery of a new aircraft type in their fleet. HCare In-service marks the next step and is for customers already operating an Airbus helicopter.

Meanwhile, HCare Lifetime—which combines the Initial and In-service programs—is for operators opting for an end-to-end package and long-term collaboration with Airbus, spanning the aircraft's service entry to end of life. These customers receive “daily care” and accompaniment at all steps of their operations, Airbus stressed, adding that HCare Lifetime aims to maximize the aircraft’s performance and sustain value over time.

According to Zammert, most helicopter lessors require the lessee to take out an HCare contract with Airbus to protect the residual value of the asset.

For each of the solutions, customers can opt for one out of three levels of material management performance: guaranteed repair, part availability, and fleet availability. The latter augments part availability with maintenance delegated to Airbus for optimal aircraft availability, based on fixed hourly and monthly rates.

For specific fleets, Airbus is retaining the existing HCare First package to fulfill the needs of its VIP customers and operators of Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) aircraft and HCare Classics for the legacy fleet. The Marignane, France-based airframer launched HCare Classics late last year jointly with HDataPower service offer for aircraft equipped with the Helionix avionics suite (H135, H145, H160, and H175).

Out-of-production models—Dauphin, H120, Puma, Gazelle, and Alouette families—account for 20 percent of Airbus’s worldwide in-service fleet, or some 2,500 units and 750 operators. The company built the HCare Classics offer with tailored solutions ranging from spare parts supply and technical support to obsolescence management and upgrades/modifications “to ensure that these customers can operate these aircraft with the peace of mind they ask for and they deserve,” Zammert said.

Airbus has become “very active” in buying back used aircraft to source and secure parts to address lags in its supply chain, he confirmed. “We started with a couple of EC120Bs and will continue with Puma aircraft.”

Upgrade Community Offer

Meanwhile, the company will also now take a cost-sharing approach to funding upgrades for some of its legacy rotorcraft, such as the out-of-production H120 light single. To give operators of these legacy aircraft an opportunity to upgrade, Airbus Helicopters is launching a crowdfunding-like approach to help customers obtain Service Bulletins or STCs with associated kits at competitive and affordable prices.

“Customers more and more ask us to continue upgrading the legacy fleet, specifically the H120. We do not want to do it alone, so we have started a cost-sharing method also known as upgrade community offer,” Zammert revealed. “It is the first time we are taking this approach,” he said, pointing out that Airbus is taking on the initiator role to develop upgrades with the new funding approach because it is the integrator and the aircraft’s type certificate holder. “So it is easier for us [than for other MRO providers] to certify it.”

Airbus is currently pushing two modifications on the H120 using this cost-sharing approach: the full Garmin G1000H suite, which will give the H120 fully digital avionics; and the integration of a non-halon, in-cabin fire extinguisher bottle.

The company is already working on other modifications where it will apply the same cost-sharing approach, Nicolas Simon, head of legacy programs, told AIN. On the H120, this includes a new landing gear skid that increases stability and Nr (rotor rpm) trim that will enhance power regardless of outside temperature. “Other potential topics could touch obsolescence, as this cost-sharing approach is a great opportunity to manage obsolescence with customers at a lower cost,” he said.

The upgrade community offer works for all non-mandatory legacy modifications that will improve customer operations, Simon said, though he sees it applying mainly for civil aircraft such as the H120 or the Dauphin. All the modifications Airbus proposes are promoted via a digital community on its AirbusWorld collaborative customer platform, he added, so that users are informed whenever a new modification is available.

According to Simon, the upgrade community offer works “very simply. First, we select the topics of interest with our customers, then we propose the solution through an STC or service bulletin with the associated price, and we then ask customers to express their interest. When the minimum quantity of aircraft is reached, the development is officially launched.” All development costs are split on a minimum quantity of aircraft to make the selling price attractive.

Airbus Revamps HCare Support and Services Portfolio