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Airbus to take lessons from NH90 retrofits to ensure future upgrades do not impact availability and customer satisfaction

NH90 retrofits being carried out at Airbus' Marignane facility in southern France. The NHI consortium intends to learn the lessons of the IOC to FOC upgrade process to ensure that adverse effects on availability do not happen with future efforts. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

Airbus accepts that it must learn the lessons of the previous retrofit efforts that adversely affected the NHIndustries (NHI) NH90 helicopter programme, as it prepares to roll out further block enhancements in the coming years.

Speaking at the handover of the 500th NH90 to the international programme on 17 March, Matthieu Louvot, Airbus Helicopters executive vice-president, said that the NHI consortium that also includes Leonardo Helicopters and Fokker Aerostructures could not afford to repeat the same mistakes of the ongoing initial operating capability (IOC) to full operating capability (FOC) retrofits that have severely impacted fleet availability rates for some customers.

β€œWe have to take lessons from the IOC to FOC retrofits,” Louvot said at the company's Marignane facility, where NH90 retrofits are taking place. β€œFor [Software Release] SR2 and SR3 [to follow], there will be a different set up in terms of spare parts management, and the organisation will be stronger. We have already proposed SR3 lead times to customers.”

With 14 international customers signed up to the programme and 597 NH90 helicopters ordered, Louvot's comments came in the same week that Norway announced it has selected the Lockheed Martin MH-60R Seahawk to replace its NH90s. Australia had previously announced it was axing its MRH-90 Taipans, while Sweden and Belgium have both suggested they may do the same.

While the reasons for each country's decision vary, poor availability caused in large part to aircraft being withdrawn from service for lengthy retrofits has been an almost universal concern.

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