HAI Convention News

Used helicopter prices at bottom, meaning now is time to buy

 - February 22, 2010, 11:02 AM

HeliValues (Booth No. 3401) president Sharon Desfor said on Sunday here at Heli-Expo 2010 that values of used helicopters may be nearing the bottom. “It could be the middle of this year,” she said, “depending on how much credit loosens up. That has been holding back the market more than any other single factor. If you can’t get money, you can’t buy anything, so the used inventory keeps escalating.”

Desfor said the market is close to returning to 2005 levels, which she characterized as normal. “I think we are so close to a normal market right now. People were simply spoiled. Between 2005 and 2008 we had an increasing market with ever-decreasing supply.”

More than the economy is at work when it comes to used helicopter valuations, she said. “The heavy twins are not selling, but that is largely a function of “once people put $20 million into a helicopter, they tend to hold onto it. There are a couple of old Super Pumas on the market, but by and large these helicopters are staying with their original owners.”

Values of Sikorsky S-76As were flat for a protracted period, rejuvenated when the A++ Turbomeca-engine conversion came to the market, but then plunged again when the waiting time for that conversion reached a year, said Desfor. Other helicopters such as the Eurocopter AS355 TwinStar never found a market in the first place and have long suffered from depressed resale values, she said, and the few used AgustaWestland AW139s for sale are not moving, for unknown reasons, although new AW139s are selling quickly.

Overall, the economy has dinged singles and light twins. “Single turbines are down in the neighborhood of 15 percent,” she said, “and light twins are not moving.” Among the hardest-hit singles; the EC120 and the Schweizer 333, according to Desfor.

As in any downturn, there are deals to be had, and Desfor points to Eurocopter AS350B2s and Bell 206L-3s as prime examples. Yet there are still some sellers with unrealistic expectations, she said. “A lot of people are a little desperate because they paid $1 million too much for some of these machines and now they can’t afford to get out any price anyone will ever pay. They are still asking $1.9 million for their [Bell] 407 because that is what they are in them for. At $1.6 million, you would sell it.” Those unrealistic expectations continue to distort the market, Desfor said.

While the market may be poised for a rebound, she concluded, “It is not really a happy time right now. There is a lot of stuff that has been on the market for more than 200 days and that is a big change from 2008.”