March 18, 2024

from Airbus Helicopters

On March 18, Airbus Helicopters delivered the 43rd and final EC145e to Metro Aviation at Airbus Helicopters’ production facility in Columbus, Mississippi. The aircraft is the last-ever EC145e to be manufactured worldwide, marking an important milestone in the history of the storied H145 family and the company as a whole.

The entire cadre of roughly 300 employees gathered for remarks and a luncheon to celebrate along with Metro Aviation’s leadership team.

Addressing Metro’s leaders,  President of Airbus Helicopters, Inc. and Head of the North America region Bart Reijnen said, “Metro Aviation’s relationship with Airbus dates back to 1985 when the company was just starting out as a small, family-owned operation founded by CEO Mike Stanberry.  Since those early days, Metro’s business has grown exponentially. The company now operates more than 168 helicopters across the United States, and I’m honored to say that 145 of them are Airbus helicopters.”

In 2015, Airbus and Metro Aviation announced together that Metro would become the launch customer of the EC145e with an initial order of six aircraft. This was soon followed by a second contract in 2017 and a third contract in 2019.

The EC145 comes from a long lineage of BK117 variants.  The origin started in 1977 with an agreement between MBB and Kawasaki.  MBB focused on the rigid rotor system and flight controls, while Kawasaki focused on the airframe.  The first prototype of the BK117 A-1 flew in 1979.  German and Japanese certifications were achieved in 1982, with U.S. certification following in 1983.

The BK 117 A-1 morphed into the A-3 and later into the A-4, followed by the B-1, B-2, C-1 and finally the C-2.  Airbus then replaced the conventional tail rotor with the fenestron tail, and the D-2 premiered.  Finally, a fifth main rotor blade was added, and it became the D-3 – today known as the H145.

Today, the delivery of the final four-bladed C2 variant of the EC145 represents the end of an era.

Johannes Dienemann, Airbus Helicopters Vice President of Industry and Civil Programs and Columbus Plant Manager, credits Metro Aviation with playing a substantial role in the EC145e’s triumph.

“The EC145e never really became a big success story until Mike Stanberry and his team placed their first order,” he stated.  “We thank them for their continued trust in us.”

Mike Stanberry, President of Metro Aviation, spoke to the employees, sharing a bit of the company’s long-term partnership with Airbus and thanking them for the significant impact they have made on his business and on the lives of so many people who have relied on their aircraft.

As a demonstration of their appreciation, the Metro Aviation leadership then served the Airbus team a barbecue lunch, smiling and visiting with each employee as they scooped coleslaw and poured sweet tea.  It was evident that the gesture was greatly appreciated by the employees and a meaningful way to culminate the day’s events.

A few weeks prior at Heli-Expo 2024 in Anaheim, California, Bart Reijnen announced a new development for the Columbus facility: employees there will now produce five-bladed H145s for the commercial North American market to accommodate the growing popularity of the latest variant which experienced a record sales year in 2023.


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