Airbus News: Company to settle corruption probe; nets orders for new helicopters

Plane maker will pay almost US$4 billion in penalties but if approved, move will remove cloud hanging over new management.

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European plane maker Airbus has reached an agreement with British, French and US authorities to settle investigations into possibly illegal contract dealings and will pay penalties of almost US$4 billion.

The company said it has reached the agreement with the French Parquet National Financier (PNF), the US Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and US authorities, who were investigating Airbus over “allegations of bribery and corruption and to inaccuracies in filings made with the US authorities pursuant to the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)”, the company said in announcing the settlement.

The company said the agreements will require approvals from all three jurisdictions and court hearings are expected to take place on 31 January 2020. If approved by the courts, the agreements will result in Airbus taking a provision of 3.6 billion euros (US$3.9 billion) for the payment of potential penalties, which will be booked in Airbus’ 2019 accounts.

The settlement comes about four years after Airbus first said it was under investigation with authorities looking into the company’s practice of using so-called “third-party consultants” to secure contracts for aircraft sales. The investigations led to an overhaul of the company’s top management and sales teams. The company said it has implemented a new ethics and compliance system and has banned the use of third-party consultants.

NASA places order for three Airbus H135 helicopters

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has placed an order for three H135 helicopters, marking the first-ever partnership between the US space programme and Airbus Helicopters. The order was announced at the Airbus booth at the Heli Expo Trade show in Anaheim, California. The H135s will be operated out of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a variety of missions, including rocket launches, security, emergency medical services, and passenger transport. Two of the helicopters are scheduled for delivery later this summer, with a third planned for early 2021. As part of a fleet replacement initiative, NASA will acquire the aircraft through Davenport Aviation, an SBA-certified woman-owned small business and HUBZone contractor specializing in the supply of aerospace equipment to federal, state and local government agencies.

“These new helicopters will help support NASA and the men and women who advance space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research,” said Romain Trapp, president of Airbus Helicopters and head of the North America region. “We look forward to partnering with NASA to provide them with the best products and services to complete their important mission.”

German HEMS operator DRF Luftrettung expands its H145 and H135 fleet

Airbus Helicopters and DRF Luftrettung have signed a contract for the purchase of 15 new H145s, three H135s and the retrofit of their current 20 H145s to the five-bladed version. This will bring the H145 fleet of the German Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) to 35 helicopters, making them the biggest operator of the five-bladed H145 in the world. The contract, booked in 2019, also renews DRF’s HCare smart contract, a full support parts-by-the-hour contract for DRF’s entire fleet for the next eight years. DRF Luftrettung is one of the biggest HEMS operators in Europe. The DRF Group operates more than 50 Airbus helicopters at 35 bases throughout Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein for emergency rescue and intensive care transports including rescue winch operations and day and night operations. In 2019, the group carried out a total of 40,738 missions.

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Matt Driskill
Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Singapore. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.

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