Stefano Villanti, the senior vice president for government and military sales at Leonardo Helicopters, discusses market opportunities for the company’s TH-119 aircraft and the AW609 civil tiltrotor with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the 2019 Paris Air Show where our coverage was sponsored by Bell and Leonardo DRS.
Vago Muradian: Welcome to the Defense and Aerospace Report. I’m Vago Muradian here at the Paris Air Show at this historic airfield Le Bourget Airfield outside the French capital. Our coverage here is sponsored by Bell and Leonardo DRS.
We’re here on the Leonardo stand to talk to Steffano Villanti who is Senior Vice President for Defense Sales and International Campaigns of Leonardo Helicopters.
Steffano Villanti: Good morning.
Mr. Muradian: Good morning. Thanks very much for the time.
Growing the U.S. market has been critical for Leonardo. You guys are offering the 119, TH-119 in the U.S. Navy’s trainer helicopter competition. You guys scored a big win partnered with Boeing with the 139 for the Air Force missile crew mission.
Talk to us a little bit about what the bigger growth strategy is for the U.S. market.
Mr. Villanti: Leonardo has been always present in the U.S. market for a long time with. among [inaudible] in Philadelphia, that it’s growing [inaudible]. Of course since last year with major program that we won with Boeing, the [MN-139], we are growing our government sales footprint and we, I think we see several opportunities with the U.S. [inaudible], in particular the Navy trainer. We think we have a very good position in particular with the CH-119. We think the helicopter is a helicopter that does everything the Navy’s requiring for training without asking any discount. It will be the first single-engine IFR in many years. So we think that it will with a very large helicopter will provide the perfect platform from basic to advanced training.
Mr. Muradian: It’s a challenging time in the global helicopter market. While the military may be growing strong, and obviously relies on a lot of commercial orders in order to be able to give you that kind of pricing advantage, talk to us about the global helicopter market and how that’s affecting your ability to [inaudible] on the military [side].
Mr. Villanti: The global custom market, traditionally you see that the commercial business has been traditionally growing in the [inaudible]. Right now it’s getting [to help] because what we see is of course there are some sectors like oil and gas that have been very slow in the past few years.
We have got to say as Leonardo, we have got a very diversified product portfolio that covers several market segments. That means that we are less affected overall by this slowdown. Plus [why] military market traditionally had been decreasing in the range of three to four percent over the years, it’s been [cyclical]. We believe that this is, also considering our first year’s success in some major military campaigns, we see a very good [phase] and part of the cycle.
So overall we think that opportunities are growing and are helping us to improve our products, to tailor for our customer, so overall we are in a very good spot in time.
Mr. Muradian: Let me ask you about the 609. That’s the small tilt rotor originally developed with Bell and Agusta. You guys ended up acquiring the entire program so now it’s an all Leonardo product. You guys have first orders. You guys have set up manufacturing in the United States. Deliveries are right around the corner. Bring us up to speed on the program and where you’re going to find more commercial and military customers.
Mr. Villanti: 609 first deliveries will be from next year. We are already seeing several orders both from commercial customers, and at the same time we see a lot of opportunities with government customers.
Generally speaking, it’s a new capability and a new product with vertical takeoff but twice the speed of traditional helicopter and as we speak with customers and we explore the market we see more and more applications so we believe that the potential of the product will be enormous.
Mr. Muradian: Do you have any idea how many from a numbers standpoint, you know, is the market 200 airplanes, 500 airplanes? Have you guys made that estimate yet about the size of the addressable market?
Mr. Villanti: We have several estimates, but to be honest, it’s very early to say. It’s a new segment that is developing so we believe that it might expand much beyond our current expectations.
Mr. Muradian: Steffano Villanti who is the Senior Vice President for Defense Sales and International Campaigns at Leonardo Helicopters, absolute pleasure. Thank you very much. Best of luck on the program and look forward to seeing you again.
Mr. Villanti: My pleasure. Thank you very much.