Russia is a ripe market for Western makers’ helicopters

HAI Convention News » 2009
February 23, 2009, 3:44 PM

Russia is a ripe market for Western helicopters, and at least one company, AgustaWestland, plans to establish manufacturing there. Overall there is considerable potential for more Western rotorcraft penetration in the Russian market especially in the civil, law enforcement and oil-and-gas sectors, with a demand that could grow to 450 to 500 helicopters by 2015. That was the message yesterday from a diversified panel of Russian helicopter dealers and operators and representatives of Western helicopter companies working there.

Angelo Raimondi, AgustaWestland vice president of sales for Europe and the Caspian Sea area, said Russia’s historic experience with rotorcraft, combined with its education and engineering resources and lower labor costs, made it an attractive venue for his company with enormous potential for growth. Currently only 6 percent of all helicopters flown in Russia are of Western origin, but Raimondi thinks that could increase to 40 percent within the next five to 10 years and that Agusta could capture at least half of that market. Raimondi said the market is particularly promising for search-and-rescue, medevac and law enforcement.

Eurocopter has been operating a full-time office in Russia since 2006 and currently has 70 turbine helicopters there–more than any other Western manufacturer–according to Olivier Michalon, Eurocopter vice president of sales and customer relations for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The company is looking to expand its market presence and is establishing service centers in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi, in the south of Russia and site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Michalon said the upcoming HeliRussia exhibition this May 21 to 23 is one any helicopter manufacturer serious about penetrating the Russian market “cannot afford” to miss. Last year, AgustaWestland, Bell, Eurocopter, MD Helicopters and Robinson exhibited there along with Russian manufacturers Mil and Kamov and 122 other companies; an estimated 10,000 attendees registered for the event.

Although Russia has a rich helicopter design and manufacturing tradition, many of its locally produced helicopters were built to military specifications and are expensive to operate and maintain, and are therefore less than ideally suitable for civil applications. Russia also has one of the lowest ratios of civil helicopters per inhabitants of any developed country, only 14 per one million persons, compared to 56 in Canada and 40 in the U.S. However, there are entire vast regions of the country, particularly in the far eastern part, where roadways are scarce and entire towns and villages can be accessed and supplied only by helicopter.   

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