FLYING THE NEST

Kazakhstan 2015 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Tristan Serretta, General Director of Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering, on the status of the industry, production capacity, and exporting aircraft.

Tristan Serretta
BIOGRAPHY
Tristan Serretta is a former French Air Force Captain and Instructor, with 18 years of service and several operations in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. He recorded 5,000 flight hours and was awarded two valor crosses and the French Legion d’Honneur, rising to the rank of Chief of Air Operations before retiring. He graduated from the IAE Aix en Provence business school with an MBA, and took charge of business development at Airbus Helicopters from 2009 and 2013. He assumed his current position in July 2013.

How would you describe the climate of the Kazakh helicopter industry?

The helicopter industry can be likened to a complex ecosystem. ECKE is only one part of this ecosystem in Kazakhstan, but already provides its polyvalent in-house competencies to the other actors for them to expand their own production capacities. During the past two years, ECKE has had a 30% changeover in its staff, allowing the company to become the best in the whole region. Through appropriate HR policies we have positioned the company as an industrial tool for Kazakhstan and Airbus Helicopters to deploy helicopters and services throughout all of Central Asia. As of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, ECKE has been awarded its valuable maintenance and training certification by Airbus Helicopters for Kazakhstan and Mongolia, and we are on our way to be recognized throughout the whole CIS region within two years. In addition, we are increasing our capabilities into the complex fields of maintenance, design, and training, having just created a design office and started certifications through project innovation purely made in Kazakhstan. The other pillars of this ecosystem are the modern aeronautic basic education for young pilots and technicians, maintenance ability, adaptation of the regulations, and mission training enabling top-class operations. In Kazakhstan, the sector is not mature, and our project is certainly the most advanced pillar of this industry nationally—even regionally as there is no equivalent. There are not enough pilots and technicians to fly and maintain the machines purchased for rescuing and serving the population today. The crews are not able to fly by night using night vision systems, and they are not able to perform complex missions using modern equipment such as medical evacuation kits or hoists.

What needs to be done to improve the industry from the government's side?

Dozens of pilots and technicians are needed, and it takes time to educate and train them in these areas, requiring a minimum of two years. Without creating a high-standard national helicopter academy, the current situation will remain. State-of-the-art equipment will stay on the ground. We recommend the creation of a national helicopter academy within the Ministry of Defense at Aktobe, operating cost-efficient light helicopters and modern innovations such as flight simulators and 3D courses adapted to academic requirements. Our partner Kazaviaspas experiences difficulty in operations, and we also recommend the co-leadership of this company and the rebuilding of a new national operator in cooperation with best-in-class foreign operators to give better access to the oil and gas sector. Urban and peri-urban police missions are today not using the extraordinary capacities of helicopters, especially at night, so creating a police air operator would also boost the sector. We also recommend creating flexible helicopter flight regulations to ease private and corporate helicopter operations, as Kazakhstan clearly needs more of these modern assets.

What is the annual production capacity of the plant?

Our capacity is between 10 and 12 helicopters. The final number depends on the work that is done on the helicopter, meaning on the local content. Based on 2,000 man-hours per helicopter, we can assemble up to 12, which factors out to 24,000 man-hours per year plus all the maintenance inspections. We have created a design office as well. Together we started on the approval of the ADOA, which is a Design Office Organization, pre-approved by Airbus Helicopter. This design office will be able to propose scoped modifications to the EASA, which is the European safety agency. This means that the helicopters we propose here in Kazakhstan can be operated worldwide. Our objective is to have the design office fully operational before the end of 2016. In the near future, we will be looking for Russian suppliers for specific equipment like radios. We also have to look at the local market, especially in light of the recently established Eurasian Economic Union.

Which countries are showing interest in acquiring helicopters assembled in Kazakhstan?

Mongolia is keen, and Turkmenistan is also showing interest in our services. ECKE is also in negotiations with Russia as well for services in some regions. We are already in discussions with Kyrgyzstan too.