On the Sidelines of Aero India 2021, BW's Manish Kumar Jha interacts with Rémi Maillard, President & MD, India & South Asia, Airbus on defence and commercial commitment to India. Airbus is emphatic on its C 295 military transport aircraft program with Tata which is awaiting final approval. Rémi also proposed Airbus AS565 Panther helicopter to Indian Navy under Naval Utility Helicopter program which is in direct competition with India's advance helicopter platforms by DPSU HAL

We are going to talk about Airbus proposition to India. Airbus puts up a big show at Aero India 2021. What are you offering to Indian Armed Forces in terms of technology, new equipment, and hardware? Any such as interesting collaboration at Aero India?

There's a lot that is interesting, we are very excited to be at Aero India. We are displaying on our booths on our cutting edge innovations for both military aircraft and the helicopters all under the Make in India ambition. So we have the C 295, which is the most versatile and combat proven military transport platform that we're offering to the Indian Air Force together with Qatar partnership partner. This is very much a make in India program. This is actually the first tangible make in India program. We would install manufacturing capabilities and the final assembly line and testing capabilities here in India. So, we very much excited about this program, because we have Tata as our partner and we look forward to executing it.

So, Airbus has been focusing on C 295 military transport aircraft for a long time but the acquisition process is long delayed. Do you see this turning into a doable proposition? What is the status now?

We remain very much committed to this program, we are very much looking forward to supporting the Indian Air Force. We have a very strong and long standing relationship with the Indian forces and I'm just eager to further develop and enhance this condition shaping the future. 

We also discussing the 330 MRTT with the Indian Air Force. The MRTT stands for multirole tanker transport aircraft. Moreover, it's very easy to maintain and it is the reliable platform and this is the ideal complement of the fighter capability; you need this capability to fully leverage the Indian Air Force fighter capability.

As far as rotary wing is concerned, IAF has been operating Airbus’ decade old helicopters like Chetak until now. I understand, Airbus is keen to offer its latest platforms to Indian navy for the naval utility helicopter (NUH) & multi role helicopter (NMRH). But having said that, India also has its own home grown robust platforms as advanced light helicopter from HAL. How do you differentiate your proposition in terms of technology?

We are offering the Panther helicopter that you see on this platform. That's the perfect multi role platform. 

This is unique in terms of performance and missions and capabilities. We also in talk with the Indian Navy in form of strategic partnership together with Mahindra and again with C295, we are committed to install the final assembly line of the Panther here in India and this is a very unique value proposition. So not only it meets the highest operational requirements for the Navy, but also that's the perfect program to foster the creation of an aerospace ecosystem here in India.

Let’s talk about the commercial aviation which is much impacted due to COVID-19. With the hint of revival of the commercial aviation and uptick in travel industry, how is the Airbus’ order book shaping up and what is the status of old orders?

It is true that with COVID we have been affected in the most practical way, but I think we adapted. It was not easy and this is not easy as we are far from being out of the wood. We have seen the aircraft’s gradually recovering from basically nothing during the lockdown up to 60% of the COVID level in December last year. So 60% this is better than what we observe in most countries and regions.

But this is still far from a sustainable and comfortable situation. So we're not out of the woods. But we believe we could see an upswing this year, we still facing a lot of headwinds with the virus with the complexity of the situation. But we believe that in the midterm with the vaccination with people desire to fly again, we will have some time.

On demand and supply side, how hopeful are you on aviation industry taking off especially in this muted economic environment?

I think we have very cost efficient value proposition, we are confident that our products meet the operational requirements of the forces, we are confident that these products are the best value proposition for our customers. 

So, we delivered last year at Airbus level 566 aircraft. So, this is an excellent performance during COVID-19, but this is 34% lower than the previous year in 2019. Out of the 566, a bit more than 10% was delivered to India, including 44 to Indigo that has become a top customer in terms of delivery price. 

So moving forward, we remain cautiously optimistic and as I told you, we are ready for the potential upswing later this year.