Eurocopter is preparing to ramp up deliveries in 2012 and 2013, and company executives are optimistic that the market has rebounded. The company delivered 503 helicopters in 2011, down from the 2008 high-point of 588, but Eurocopter President and CEO Lutz Bertling says that reflects the impact of lower bookings at the end of 2008-2009. Bertling says 2012 will begin to bounce back with sales picking up in 2011.

“The market is really back,” he says, noting that the company netted orders for 457 helicopters in 2011, and “we’re sure we will have more than 500 bookings this year.” The company received fewer than 20 cancellations in 2011, a sign of stability in the market, says Bertling.

Driving the return are developing markets in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. But the North American market, which still is the dominant market for civil helicopters, also has shown signs of improvement.

Western Europe, Bertling notes, remains problematic, particularly in the struggling economies in the southern part of the region. “We don’t see very big growth [there] next year,” he says.

Air-tour operators, private owners and emergency medical services are leading demand. Bertling says that demand is picking up across models, but particularly for the singles and light-twin helicopters. Bookings for the single-engine EC130 rose to 238 units from 143 the year before.

The company is eying future new mission opportunities, including emerging energy operation, such as wind farms, and resource operations in remote locations. However, Bertling, also says Eurocopter sees potential for a vertical lift commuter market, and the company is “preparing ourselves to be a player in this market.” The potential for the commuter market is increasing as capacity constraints are becoming more critical in Western Europe. While he would not provide details, Bertling says Eurocopter has been holding discussions with various national officials in Europe about the potential for such a market.

The company is moving forward on product improvements on multiple platforms with the goal of flying either a new or upgraded aircraft or a technology demonstrator every year. Eurocopter is targeting certification of its EC175 and its newly unveiled EC130 T2 this year, and shortly expects to resume flights of its XD-3 high-speed hybrid helicopter. The company further expects to bring it the U.S. market for demonstrations this summer. Longer-term is the X-4, which will incorporate new concepts in cockpit design.

But as the company continues to evolve its products, it also has begun to ramp up its services and training.

The company’s recent acquisition of Vector Aerospace increased its capabilities to include engine services for the first time. The Vector acquisition also provides a wider variety of capabilities across models, including fixed-wing. “Vector will not be the end,” Bertling says, adding Eurocopter is eyeing other potential acquisitions.

Another major focus of Eurocopter has been to build up its training services. In 2008 the company had four simulators for training – primarily in France – and by the end of 2012 will have increased that to 20 stationed worldwide. “This is really a major investment,” Bertling says. “This is not a business where you make super margins.” But he calls simulator-based training one of the key steps to improve safety.