AgustaWestland helicopter makers set sights on renewed opportunities in India

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Over a decade after the emergence of the VVIP helicopter bribery scandal involving AgustaWestland choppers, its parent company Leonardo (formerly known as Finmeccanica) has renewed its efforts to re-establish its presence in India’s expanding civil aviation sector.

The Indian government imposed a ban on the Italian company’s participation in government contracts in 2014, a restriction that was lifted in 2021.

On Thursday, the company unveiled its chosen distributor for the Indian civil helicopter market, marking what it termed “an important milestone.”

This announcement was made at the HAI Heli-Expo in California, USA. The partnership is anticipated to handle sales, marketing, and support for Leonardo helicopters within India’s civilian commercial market.

In stark contrast to its previous stance during the sanctions, where the Italian aviation and defence conglomerate had threatened to withdraw its operations in India due to minimal business prospects, the management now perceives opportunities within India’s burgeoning aviation market.

“We are pleased to establish this partnership with Universal Vulkaan Aviation Pte Limited. Given India’s flourishing civil aviation sector and the escalating demand for dependable transportation solutions, we believe our cutting-edge helicopters are ideally positioned to meet this demand,” said Stefano Villanti, SVP Sales and Marketing at Leonardo Helicopters.

The company will offer helicopter models AW109, AW139, and AW169 to the Indian markets through this new partnership.

The scandal surfaced in early 2013 in Italy, alleging that the company had paid kickbacks to secure the sale of 12 AgustaWestland VVIP helicopters to the Indian government in a deal valued at Rs 3.6 billion.

Subsequently, the deal was cancelled by the government. Formerly known as Finmeccanica, Leonardo SpA is partially owned by the Italian government.

Since the lifting of the government contract ban in 2021, the company has gradually increased its presence in India, making its initial appearance at the Aero India show in February 2023 in Bengaluru. Reports indicate that it secured orders from one of India’s largest private helicopter services companies as well as a Kerala-based jewellery business house last year.

Published On:

Mar 1, 2024

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