What’s in a name?

AgustaWestland is no more. Well, it still exists, but we’ve been told to now call it Finmeccanica Helicopters. This is a bit of a “me too” moment after the announcement last year that Eurocopter parent Airbus would be naming all its machines Airbus Helicopters. To be fair, the Finmeccanica transition has been in place for some time, and the name change is one part of a larger plan to realign the business units.

It’s AOPA’s policy to identify aircraft via the preference of the current type certificate holder. It’s something we spend too much time thinking about. Cessna’s recent acquistion of Beechcraft is a good example. Do we call it Cessna-Beechcraft, Textron Aviation, or just stick with Cessna? The folks at Textron (or is it Cessna?) don’t make it much easier. In ads you’re seeing Textron Aviation, but they want individual products refered to as Cessnas and Beechcraft. While confusing, the reasoning is sound. The names Cessna and Beechcraft carry weight, and dropping them would mean dropping a century worth of credibility, history, and maybe even a little romance. Meanwhile, keeping them and bringing in Textron gives the feeling there is more to it. Even if you don’t know what Textron is, you sense there’s a bigger presence there somewhere, which is exactly what they are going for.

Then there’s Airbus and Finmeccanica. Both decided to drop their longstanding brands and go straight to the parent company. With Airbus we lost Eurocopter and a few other notable brands, and replaced it with the decidedly boring bus in the sky. If you set out to kill the romance of aviation, inserting “bus” is an effective way to do it. While the name change does offer the benefit of cleaning up what had become a really confusing nomenclature (the Dauphin will be replaced by the H160, for example) buying or flying an “Airbus” just isn’t as thrilling as  Eurocopter, Aerospatiale, and so on.

With Finmeccanica the challenge is a little more subtle. The company had already inserted itself into the AgustaWestland name by tagging on “a Finmeccanica company.” This worked well. You got the idea there was more to AW, but you kept the 90-year history of Agusta and 50-year history of Westland. It was a modern marriage that flowed off the tongue nicely. No more. The parent has spoken, and we’ll now have the Finmeccanica 189, 139, and others. Although, the website still calls them the AW189, AW139, respectively. I guess that means we’ll have to call them the Finmeccanica AW189, AW obviously short for AgustaWestland.

Interestingly, Lockheed Martin chose to take a meshed approach when it acquired Sikorsky last year by ditching Sikorsky’s winged S logo and replacing it with Lockheed Martin’s star. They also added the tagline “A Lockheed Martin company.” Given recent history, it may only be a matter of time before we have the Lockheed Martin S-76 though.

1 Comment

  1. No different than GM having GM Trucks, Chevy Trucks, Buick and Cadillac cars. Though Finmeccanica Helicopters is a mouthful!

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