The Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) 12-strong fleet of Airbus Helicopters H225Ms has now surpassed 25,000 flight hours, only shortly after a celebration of the 20,000-hour mark.
The accelerated use is partly due to Malaysia’s withdrawal of its veteran Sikorsky S-61 Nuri (Parrot) medium-lift helicopters in 2019, without a replacement. The Airbus machines – still known in Malaysia by their former designation EC725 – have been flying Search and Rescue (SAR) and flood relief missions, as well as in the utility role.
“We are waiting for the RMAF to confirm a requirement for more medium-lift utility helicopters,” said Fabrice Rochereau, head of Asia-Pacific sales for Airbus Helicopters. Meanwhile, the cash-strapped RMAF has leased four smaller Leonardo AW139s to help plug the gap.
“We have a deep, long-term commitment to Malaysia,” Rochereau said. In 2019, the company moved its entire maintenance, training and support operation from Singapore’s Seletar airport to Subang airport, Malaysia. This included simulators for the H225 and AS365. The EC725s will be overhauled here starting this year, having reached 12 years in service.
In addition to the EC725s, Airbus Helicopters has sold six AS555s to the Malaysian Navy for training; nine more to the Police; and three AS365s to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA). The RMAF also now has five EC120Bs for training, which it leased second-hand from a local MRO company.
In the wider Asia-Pacific region, Airbus has some 2,150 helicopters in service, of which about one-third are military, one-third parapublic, and the remainder in the civil market. “We sell more helicopters here than all of our competitors combined,” Rochereau said. In particular, he highlighted the H135. “It’s a rising star…the right fit for law enforcement, medevac and training.” He claimed that the H135 is the lowest-cost twin-engine helicopter to buy and operate, and very reliable.
by Chris Pocock at DSA, Kuala Lumpur