ORLANDO, Fla., March 10 (UPI) -- Eurocopter, a subsidiary of European defense giant EADS, scored orders and agreements for 68 helicopters from U.S., European and Russian customers at this week's Heli-Expo trade show in Orlando, Fla.
The sales, announced Thursday, came after Eurocopter had unveiled several new products to supply the expected upturn in the helicopter sector.
"There clearly was a more upbeat atmosphere at this year's Heli-Expo event, with strong indications of an increase in our customers' business activity for the second half of 2011," Eurocopter Chief Executive Officer Lutz Bertling said in a statement. "We are seeing the result of our significant investments in innovation and technology as customers recognize the competitiveness of our product line."
Spanish helicopter firm Inaer and three companies from the United States -- Metro Aviation, Lewis Energy Group and Leading Edge -- signed pledges to order 17 EC145 T2, the latest version of the popular twin-engine light utility helicopter, Eurocopter said in a statement. Unveiled in Orlando, the aircraft features a new Fenestron tail rotor, more powerful Arriel 2E turboshaft engines and new avionics.
Mexico's Transportes Aereos Pegaso ordered five regular EC145s, with options for five more. Pegaso operates one of the largest Eurocopter fleets in Latin America and will use its EC145s in transportation missions for the Mexican state-owned utility CFE, Eurocopter said.
Customers from France and the United States ordered eight enhanced versions of the AS350 B3, a single-engine intermediate helicopter which became the first to land on Mount Everest. Originally developed by France's Aerospatiale in the 1970s, the AS350 has seen several modernizations over the past years and has proven a strong sale for Eurocopter since Aerospatiale became part of the group in 1992.
UTair, a Russian helicopter operator active mainly in the energy industry, ordered 15 EC175 helicopters, firming up a letter of intent announced at Heli-Expo in 2008. The 7-metric-ton rotary-wing aircraft is suited for missions in oil and gas operations, search and rescue, emergency medical transport and business aviation.
Eurocopter, which employs around 15,600 people, says it's the global market leader for civil and parapublic helicopters. The company, which also markets defense products, reported sales of $6.6 billion in 2010. It says that some 11,200 Eurocopter helicopters are in service all over the world. It's a subsidiary of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co.