Universal VulKaan Aviation eyes Indian market for chopper sales

NEW DELHI:Universal VulKaan Aviation, a Singapore-based company, is set to venture into India as its next growth market, aiming to sell over 30 helicopters within the next three years, senior officials told Mint in an interaction.

This ambitious plan, which includes both pre-owned and new helicopters, is set to reshape the country’s helicopter landscape. The company, a distributor for Leonardo helicopters in India, has already engaged in discussions with private charter companies and state governments, they added.

“The helicopter market in India has not reached its full potential, with only 250 machines in operation,” said Harinder Jeet Singh Commar, partner at Universal VulKaan Aviation. “Brazil’s VIP market alone boasts over 700 machines. However, the Indian government is now focusing on expanding helicopter use for medical activities and religious tourism.”

Universal VulKaan has signed pre-sales contracts for five units of the AW 09 machines and 11 units from the Leonardo Helicopters range, including the AW109 Trekker, AW139, and AW169. Additionally, the company has committed to a pre-owned fleet of 14 helicopters, such as the AW 119Kx and AW 109 Trekker.

“In the pre-owned market, we’re focusing on the 119s, which are six-seaters, and the trekkers, which are mini eight-seaters,” explained Karan Sethi, sales director at Universal VulKaan Aviation. “For the luxury VIP group, we’re concentrating on the 169 and the 139, which are large cabin helicopters with twin engines, seating between 12 to 16 people.”

India’s civil aviation ministry has emphasized the critical role of helicopters in improving accessibility, especially in remote areas. They are vital for emergency medical services and disaster management. The government has launched a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) to provide emergency medical services within a 150 km radius of major hospitals, including AIIMS.

As per data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, there are around 50 helicopter charter operators in the country. Of these, Himalayan Heli Services, Pawan Hans, and Global Vectra Helicorp accounted for more than 75% of the total flights operated in 2022-2023. 

French aerospace giant Airbus has also taken steps to be a key player in the segment. In January, it entered into a partnership with Tata Group to set up a final assembly line for helicopters in the country. Under this, the assembly line will produce H125 helicopter from Airbus civil range for India and the export market.

Universal VulKaan Aviation’s parent company, Vulkaan Group, is a global distributor for Leonardo helicopters, an Italian aerospace giant. In 2016, Leonardo-Finmeccanica unified its subsidiaries AgustaWestland, Alenia Aermacchi, DRS Technologies, Selex ES, Oto Melara, and WASS into a single industrial entity.

The company anticipates initial demand growth from government operations but is optimistic about the rise in luxury travel via helicopters in the medium to long term, driven by improved safety standards brought by newer fleets.

“Over the years, I think we will invest more and more to bring helicopters in (to India)…we will also invest…in the ancillary services or the MRO (maintenance, repair, overhaul). I think that is one area which is very underserved in India as well as after-sales services,” Sethi added.

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Published: 29 May 2024, 04:00 PM IST

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