Global demand for helicopters is expected to increase over the next five years, according to the results of Honeywell’s Turbine-Powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook survey, released here at Heli-Expo ‘13. Deliveries of new civilian-use helicopters will total between 4,900 and 5,600 units during 2013-2017 according to the survey, with strong demand focused in the first three years of the period and reflected in every region of the world. This is 35 percent higher for this three-year period than was recorded in last year’s survey. The 5,600-unit figure represents Honeywell’s expectation that demand in 2016-2017 will increase as operators firm up purchase plans.
“The buyer confidence reflected in this year’s survey is a much-needed shot in the arm for the industry,” said Brian Sill, vice president, Honeywell aftermarket helicopter sales. “Supporting the growth numbers is the fact that helicopter usage for corporate, oil and gas, utility and training missions is improving, which shows that helicopters are value-add aircraft in today’s business environment.”
The results of this, Honeywell’s 15th such annual survey, are based on queries to more than 1,000 chief pilots and flight department managers of companies operating 2,400 turbine and 275 piston helicopters worldwide. The survey excludes large fleet or “mega” operators, while factoring in input from oil and gas support and EMS fleet operators.
Several factors are driving the increased demand, according to Honeywell: aging aircraft fleets, contractual requirements, changes in operational requirements, expiring warranties and regulations requiring twin-engine helicopters.
The U.S. and Canada are expected to account for 27 percent of the purchases, while Europe will absorb 28 percent. Latin and South America will account for 20 percent, Asia/Oceana 19 percent, and Africa/Middle East will account for 6 percent of new helicopter deliveries.
The 2013 forecast represents a rebound, after the 2012 survey found a 4-percent decrease in demand over the 2011 report. Honeywell believes this indicates that the industry “may be returning to a more expansionary environment.” Light single-engine helicopters are the most in-demand product in this time period, exemplified by the Eurocopter EC130/AS350 series, Bell 407 and Robinson R66. Most of the purchase interest for the aircraft is in North America, though the Middle East and Africa have a noticeable surge in interest in these models. Intermediate/medium twin-engine helicopters (e.g., AgustaWestland AW139, AW169, Bell 412, EC145, Sikorsky S-76) and light twin helicopters (e.g., EC135, Bell 429, AW109) each garnered about 25 percent of the intent to purchase. Planned purchases of heavy multi-engine helicopters (e.g., EC225, Russian Helicopters Mi-171, Sikorsky S-92) actually declined slightly from 2012 levels.
Meanwhile, operators plan to expand the use of the helicopters they already have, according to the survey. In North America, 10 percent of operators plan to increase utilization, while 3 percent plan to fly less. In Europe, about twice as many operators (16 percent) plan to fly more versus flying less (7 percent). In Latin America 27 percent of operators plan to increase utilization while only 5 percent see themselves flying less. One third of operators (33 percent) in the Middle East and Africa say they will increase flight ops while about half that number (15 percent) plan to decrease operations. Operations in Asia could see the greatest increase, with 35 percent planning to fly more versus 6 percent anticipating reduced operations.
As for actual flight time, the survey found oil and gas operations reported flying their helicopters an average of 725 hours per year. Helicopters used in EMS, training, air tours and general utility average 410 to 450 hours per year, according to Honeywell. Law enforcement and news-gathering operations log an average of 375 to 390 hours per year, while corporate operators put the least time on their rotorcraft, flying on average less than 300 hours per year per aircraft.
The survey also contains something of a popularity contest that could indicate which helicopters and OEMs will be the big winners in this increased sales environment. In response to the survey’s question on what model the operators would recommend to a friend or colleague, the top models named (order not indicated in the survey) are the AW139, Bell 206 series, Bell 407, Bell 412, EC130/EC150 series and Sikorsky’s S-76.
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