HAI Convention News

Rolls-Royce sees steady helo demand

 - September 29, 2006, 4:09 AM

Rolls-Royce’s annual 10-year global turbine helicopter demand outlook is again forecasting steady growth, with total 2006-2015 deliveries of civil and military rotorcraft predicted to reach 10,915 units valued at $103.9 billion.

North America and Europe account for 70 percent of total demand in this year’s outlook, Asia-Pacific 12 percent and the Middle East and India 9.7 percent. The numbers represent a 2-percent increase over the turbine builder’s 2005 forecast.

They also reflect continuing strong demand for military ships and a firming civilian market–the best in 20 years–helped in no small part by rising oil prices that have increased exploration pressure. In addition to lift demands to offshore platforms, there is also the need to replace and expand airborne law enforcement and emergency medical services fleets.

As usual, the military side dominates the equation, with a forecast demand during the period of 5,168 new units and 556 major engine-related upgrades valued at $88.1 billion (airframe and engine). The numbers represent a 4-percent annual growth rate. Broken down by segment, 44 percent of military demand is for large twins, 19 percent for intermediate twins, 18 percent for light singles, 14 percent for heavy and 5 percent for light twins. Huge components of this demand include Europe’s predicted acquisition of 795 intermediate twin NH-90s for tactical transport and maritime patrol and a variety of new American military programs covering new or refurbished attack, scout and transport helicopters including up to 300 vertical takeoff unmanned aerial vehicles (VTUAV).

Major U.S. military programs due during the forecast period include full-rate production of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor and major upgrades/new production for the Black Hawk, Apache and Chinook helicopters. Pentagon decisions on up to 322 light utility helicopters and 141 CSAR-X combat search-and-rescue units are also pending.

Significantly smaller civilian demand, $13.9 billion in airframes and $1.9 billion in installed engines over the forecast period, is projected to grow at an annual rate of 0.9 percent. Civilian demand accounts for 48 percent of total units with the fleet breaking down as 57 percent singles, 22 percent light twins, 18 percent intermediate twins and 3 percent large. Eurocopter is expected to continue its dominance of the single turbine market. Overall, deliveries of 500 civilian turbine units annually are seen during the period.

Besides increasing demand from offshore operators, many of whom have already committed to sizeable new aircraft orders, the survey again underscores several significant factors that will fuel civil demand. That includes an average Western world fleet age of 28 years, increased flight hours and emergency deployments–especially during the last year in response to worldwide natural disasters–and additional need for homeland security, other airborne law enforcement and medevac.  

Given the average fleet age, new models and upgrades of existing models from Agusta, Bell, Eurocopter and Sikorsky are expected to entice more operators to replace aging aircraft in exchange for better performance and economy.

“New technology continues to be a central linchpin to the future growth of the civil market,” according to Rolls-Royce, which cites advances in noise reduction and control systems as prime examples.