Eurocopter marked a major development for Brazil’s aeronautical industry yesterday with the inauguration of its Helibras subsidiary’s new rotary-wing center of excellence in Itajubá, Minas Gerais, where Brazilian Armed Forces EC725 helicopters will be assembled.
Helibras’ new Itajubá plant will produce, assemble and maintain the EC725s being acquired by Brazil’s three armed forces in the largest such contract ever signed in South America – providing a highly capable aircraft fleet based on Eurocopter’s renowned Super Puma/Cougar helicopter family. The new industry capabilities will also enable Helibras to build the civilian EC225 version, providing locally-manufactured helicopters for off-shore oil and gas operations, as well as other applications.
In addition to establishing a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, this center will create the framework for potential future helicopter development in the country, along with the evolution of its aviation industry supply chain. “The Itajubá plant represents our latest milestone in a relationship spanning more than 30 years with Brazil, and underscores Eurocopter’s commitment of being in proximity to its customers while in-sourcing high-value business in key markets,” said Eurocopter President and CEO Lutz Bertling. “
Total investment in the new Helibras Itajubá industrial site is €160 million, which includes creation of the facility, establishment of the various elements necessary for helicopter production, as well as the organization and operation of related training programs for personnel. The plant is part of a €1.8 billion agreement signed by Helibras and the Brazilian Defense Ministry in 2008 for acquisition of the EC725s to be operated by Brazil’s three armed forces – which are to include progressively 50 percent Brazilian-made content.
“This program meets the Brazilian government’s goals of acquiring mission-capable, customized helicopters for its armed forces, while bringing in valuable expertise for the country’s aeronautical industry and the supply chain,” stated Eduardo Marson Ferreira, the Helibras President.
Helibras already has delivered the first four EC725s to Brazil – which were assembled at Eurocopter’s production site in France, to be followed by the Itajubá-built helicopters. The first of these are today in the Final Assembly Line in the new Brazilian facility, including an EC725 that will serve as the development and systems integration aircraft for the in-country development of the Utility and Naval mission systems. 2017 is the deadline to deliver the 50 aircraft.
Helibras already has signed contracts with 15 Brazilian companies for the supply of EC725 components, parts and services. It also is providing training for pilots, mechanics, technicians and engineers during activity in both France and Brazil as part of the technology transfer agreement for the helicopter acquisition.
The new Helibras Itajubá production facility was built using state-of-the-art engineering, incorporating the most modern construction materials and sustainability concepts. As examples, the main building’s architecture favors the use of natural light for interior illumination, while solar panels provide electricity and translucent industrial shutters facilitate ventilation. The production facility’s roof area also is in compliance with the latest sustainability concepts, and rainwater will be collected and reused for industrial processes. These features will contribute to energy savings of 231 kWh per month and water savings of 20 cubic meters monthly. Additionally, a recycling program is to collect approximately four tons of material per month, representing an important incentive for Itajubá’s environmental preservation efforts.
The EC725 is Eurocopter’s latest member of its Super Puma/Cougar helicopter family. As a highly capable twin-engine helicopter in the 11-metric-ton category, it is designed for multiple missions, including combat search and rescue, long-range tactical transport, aeromedical transport, logistic support and naval duties.
Its civil version, the EC225, counts more than 110 helicopters in service around the world, with 190,000 flight hours logged to date by this fleet. Only in Brazil, 14 EC225s are operated for offshore transport to oil and gas platforms in the Santos and Campos areas.