Forecast predicts boom time for manufacturers

 - November 5, 2007, 9:06 AM

The latest market projection for the civil helicopter market: red-hot. For the OEMs, it means big delivery backlogs, which translates to waiting times of up to four or five years for customers. While the demand for medevac and offshore support rotorcraft is accelerating, the popularity of executive helicopters is also on the rise as urban surface traffic grows ever worse.

Forecast International released its new civilian helicopter market forecast for single-engine and light twin helicopters earlier this fall. The Newtown, Conn.-based research firm predicts that manufacturers will produce 14,200 helicopters in the category with a market value of $30.46 billion in the 10-year period between 2007 and 2016. This forecast is more optimistic than Honeywell’s, which predicts sales of 8,000 new turbine helicopters over the next decade.

Piston-engine helicopter manufacturer Robinson is expected to continue as the world’s most ubiquitous producer, delivering 6,086 helicopters worth $2.15 billion over the period. Eurocopter will remain the leading producer of turbine helicopters, selling an estimated 3,141 aircraft valued at $8.87 billion. Last year the company delivered 380 helicopters; it currently claims a backlog of 620 and is posting annual sales gains of 20 percent. Robinson is forecast to produce 42.8 percent of all light commercial rotorcraft and 90 percent of all piston-engine models over the period, while Eurocopter’s market share is pegged at 22.1 percent of all helicopters produced and 29 percent of the market’s overall value.

While other turbine manufacturers lag behind Eurocopter, their numbers are also increasing. Bell, which produces less than half as many helicopters as Eurocopter,
is currently experiencing an annual sales growth of 30 percent and is forecast to produce 1,576 aircraft worth $5.78 billion over the period; Sikorsky 1,123 helicopters worth $3.41 billion; and AgustaWestland 941 worth $4.95 billion. With Robinson, these manufacturers represent 90 percent of total production and 82 percent of total revenue, according to the research firm.

Turbine twins will continue to outsell single-turbine aircraft, according to the forecast. The market for twins over the period is forecast at 3,703 helicopters worth $22.33 billion, while the market for 3,603 single- turbine aircraft is valued at $5.7 billion.

Forecast International cites the growth in demand in the U.S. and Europe as well as that generated by emerging economies as key factors currently driving the market. Those economies include China, India and Russia, where government and private-sector entities are discarding their antiquated Soviet military transport helicopters for Western designs.