If you’ve spent even just 30 minutes in a helicopter, you know two things: They are incredibly convenient, and they are both loud and uncomfortable. Airbus, Europe’s largest aerospace firm, is aiming to change the latter by giving private owners options for more style and grace.
A large portion of Airbus’s rotorcraft—helicopters, to you and me—are dedicated to rescue, utility, or transport missions, and while some are speedy, few are used for racing or recreation. In general, they’re purchased in a business-to-business context, with no differences for private and business buyers. Until now. With the introduction of the Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) brand, corporate and private buyers can customize cabin interiors (and even exteriors to a degree). “ACH clients are neither providing a service nor generating revenues from the operations of their helicopter,” says Frederic Lemos, head of ACH. “[The new program] is consumer focused as opposed to the more traditional B2B. Luxury, quality, and amazing experiences are the result of special attention to each detail.”
Previously, Airbus Helicopters customers would pick a predesigned interior from a standard catalogue; but with ACH, the sky’s the limit. The new brand’s offerings are divided into three categories: Stylence, Exclusive, and Editions. Stylence is a prefab offering created by the company’s in-house team. Its aesthetic is inspired by lightweight sports cars, complete with a racing-stripe paint job and six leather-seat-and-carpet combos. Clients may add custom elements as they wish.
For the Exclusive line, the company rolls out its full bespoke capabilities, incorporating “a higher level of comfort, soundproofing, luxurious materials, and sophisticated design,” says Lemos. “We work on a ‘match to sample’ concept. [The client] can specify the brand and leather color reference they prefer or even provide us with a nonaeronautical material that we will match with an aeronautical material from our suppliers.”
One recent ACH client wanted his copter’s flooring to match the decking of his yacht. So the brand sourced a teakwood equivalent that replicated the look and thickness of the wood used on the yacht but was already approved for aeronautical use. Another client provided some Hermès leather to apply to specific parts of the cabin. And yet another outfitted his chopper with a precious clock.
ACH quality on displayBut not all of the upgrades in the ACH Exclusive line are solely aesthetic; models can also be equipped with better sound-proofing, double-glazed windows, electrical footsteps, reclining armchairs, ambient lighting, and Bluetooth.
The final category of Airbus’s new styles, ACH Editions, is reserved for special- edition helicopters created in collaboration with outside brands and designers. The first example of the concept is the ACH145 Mercedes-Benz Style, which features a distinctive silver-arrow paint job, a bolder, more aerodynamic-looking front end, and redesigned landing gear.
Airbus can give the ACH treatment to a range of helicopter models, including the ACH145, ACH130, ACH135, and the new ACH160, which is expected to begin deliveries next year. The new program is a natural outgrowth of the conglomerate’s Airbus Corporate Jets brand, which was founded in 1997 to provide the extra level of service demanded by business-jet clients. Now, with the debut of ACH, Airbus has become the only aircraft manufacturer with dedicated private and business brands for both jets and helicopters.