Rolls forecasting ‘robust’ helo growth

 - February 21, 2010, 3:51 PM

Turbine-engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce predicted robust growth for the global helicopter market over the next decade at a Heli-Expo press conference yesterday, with total deliveries of more than 16,400 turbine helicopters valued at $146 billion in its 2010 to 2019 forecast horizon. The helicopters will require approximately 26,000 new turbine engines valued at about $12 billion, according to the company.

“Rolls-Royce predicts solid long-term demand in both civil and military helicopter segments,” said Ken Roberts, president of Rolls-Royce Helicopter Engines. “Clearly we saw some shifting of demand to the right, but overall fundamentals of the market remain very, very strong.”

Among the factors cited for the projected growth are improving civil market fundamentals and a growing need for more vertical-lift capability among the world’s armed forces. Demand for replacements of retired and aging helicopters, the growth of demand in emerging markets and projected hiring within the industry are other factors the company noted in assembling the forecast.

Rolls-Royce foresees sales of about 10,300 civil helicopters with an airframe value of about $38 billion and engine value of $4.2 billion during the period, while military deliveries are predicted to total about 6,100 helicopters with an airframe value of about $108 billion and an engine value of some $7.7 billion. Sales are expected to peak at about 1,800 units annually in 2014 and 2015. Medium helicopter engines will lead sales during the forecast period with about 7,500 units, followed by singles with 7,000 units, light twins (5,100), intermediate (4,000) and heavy (1,800).

In the near term, growth in the civil market is expected to be modest, especially in new entry-level turbine helicopters.

“The rotorcraft market will continue to be counterbalanced by offsetting civil and military requirements, and stronger macroeconomic conditions are expected to result in increased demand in the future,” Roberts said.

Rolls-Royce’s annual forecast is a closely watched industry barometer, and its upbeat assessment is sure to be welcomed after a sluggish 2009. However, this year’s prognostications aren’t far off last year’s, which predicted strong demand to resume by 2013.

Rolls-Royce, whose engines are used in helicopters made by more than one dozen helicopter manufacturers, expects to be a major beneficiary of the demand. At the press conference, Roberts reviewed some of the milestones of the company and its future development plans. However, while stressing the company’s ongoing push for technological refinement, Roberts said the company will also emphasize customer support.

“None of it matters unless you get the customer interface right,” Roberts said. “The customers’ experience with the product over the long term will sustain the company’s success.”