Rolls forecast highlights long-term helo demand

 - February 23, 2009, 4:07 PM

Rolls-Royce, in its annual 10-year market forecast, sees a market characterized by near-term softness followed by a resumption of growth. Over the  period, total helicopter deliveries are predicted to be 15,800, a slight increase on the figure from last year’s forecast.

The company points to an underlying long-term demand in a $12 billion turbine-engine market where global markets show continued demand over the span of the forecast. The forecast, covering both civil and military new-production helicopters, was compiled based on projected civil customer new requirements and fleet replacement needs, new military requirements and fleet replacement forecasts, OEM production plans and customer input.

Ken Roberts, president of the Rolls-Royce helicopter engine business, said, “The projection of deliveries in the short term shows that the industry will not escape the economic downturn, but the market will exhibit strong demand by 2013, indicative of its underlying strength.” The Rolls-Royce market forecast projects delivery of civil and military turbine helicopters with total value of approximately $131 billion over the period 2009-2018.

The civil market forecast is up 5 percent compared to last year’s, primarily due to new entry-level very light turbine helicopters. The civil segment now stands at 9,600 units to be delivered over the period, with an overall airframe value estimated at near $27 billion, of which engines account for $4 billion. “With the oil and gas industry, police, air ambulance and defense ministries all looking for new, purpose-built aircraft,” Roberts continued, “the demand for and benefits of helicopter usage are clear.”

Rolls-Royce also projects 6,200 new military helicopter deliveries during the 10-year period, with an airframe value of around $104 billion and installed engine value of around $8 billion. The total for total OEM rotorcraft engine deliveries is 25,000.

The 2008 and 2009 Rolls-Royce forecasts differ in that the previous year’s outlook showed a higher delivery rate from this year through 2012, but fewer than the 2009 forecast in the out years, the crossover point of the two forecasts being 2013. The latest Rolls-Royce projections have deliveries peaking at just below 1,800 annually in 2014 and 2015. Single-engine rotorcraft will continue to lead the market in unit volume, with Eurocopter retaining its lead position for the next one to three years, although the Bell 206L and 407 will remain in high demand. Robinson Helicopter has the potential to challenge entry-level segment leaders in the next three to five years with its new RR300-powered entry. Underlying international demand for police, law enforcement, corporate, EMS and utility helicopters will also bolster the single-engine segment.

The forecast sees established twins being replaced by newer models as Eurocopter, AgustaWestland, Sikorsky and Bell introduce new products. The AW139 is the current market leader in the intermediate sector.

Rolls-Royce lists market drivers as an enhanced value proposition and performance through new technology, environmental footprint and fleet demographics. Single-engine helicopters will continue to constitute the largest portion of civil sales and will also show the most year-to-year variation on volume over the period.

While economic pressures dampen demand from the industrialized nations, emerging markets in Asia, Africa and the Indian subcontinent are giving promise of long-term growth consistent with apparent strong economic development, the Rolls-Royce researchers have found. This trend has already spawned new market entries, with the report specifically citing Heli Brasil and Hafei Aviation in China. The forecast also sees new technology driving upgrade opportunities as operators seek economic benefits from lower fuel consumption and greater safety while pursuing green technology with its promise of lower pollutant emissions and airborne noise levels.

Rolls-Royce sees the world’s military turbine rotorcraft market being driven by armed forces engagements and by humanitarian relief efforts. The average age of fleets continues to increase, with many Vietnam-era helicopters still in use. The operational tempo of military engagements is four times that of the peacetime rate, reflecting a continuing level of worldwide hostilities. Operations in distant theaters are driving emergence of new heavy-lift requirements for very large VTOL capabilities.