Modest Growth Forecast for U.S. Civil Helicopter Sector

 - February 4, 2014, 3:10 AM
The oil and gas producing segment is growing rapidly, but that growth will spell only modest gains for the civil helicopter sector in the U.S., which should account for a third of global demand.

While the worldwide deepwater offshore energy boom fuels an increase in civil helicopter sales, that will translate into only modest sales gains within the U.S. market, research consulting firm Frost & Sullivan (F&S) predicts. In a recently released study, F&S predicts U.S. civil helicopter purchases will rise to $1.07 billion by 2020 from $890 million in 2012, accounting for approximately one-third of worldwide demand.

F&S notes, “The civil helicopter market has rebounded after the 2008-2009 recession, which resulted in a lack of financing to support civil helicopter purchases. The improving U.S. economy has allowed for recapitalization of old aircraft as well as new purchases to support growing demand from industries such as emergency medical services and oil and gas.”

The average age of the U.S. civil fleet is 24 years and the used rotorcraft market remains tight, according to F&S.

More significantly, F&S predicts that U.S. government spending on military helicopters will drop to $6.7 billion in 2018 from $12.41 billion in 2012, placing pressure on military leaders to find off-the-shelf vertical-lift solutions, including the conversion of civilian models for military missions. Constant use in combat, combat support operations and humanitarian missions means that many existing military airframes will reach their service lives between 2030 and 2040, F&S predicts. “Some Vietnam-era aircraft, such as the CH-47 Chinook and the UH-1 Huey fleets, are nearly 50 years old,” said F& S aerospace and defense senior industry analyst Michael Blades. “Upgrades and remanufactured platforms will continue to dominate spending for the military helicopter market, and new programs will favor modifying commercial-off-the-shelf aircraft rather than developing aircraft from the ground up,” Blades said. He also pointed to a growing trend to analyze new platforms based on overall value. “In both the civil and military markets, end users will [emphasize] total life cycle costs rather than acquisition costs.”