The British Isles, Eurocopter’s first market for civil helicopters, presents significant opportunity for the helicopter manufacturer, according to Eurocopter UK managing director Markus Steinke.
Although VIP sales have dwindled to nearly nothing, established customers, such as offshore oil and gas operators, are in a strong shape, and harbor pilot transport and wind farm servicing present new opportunities, Steinke told AIN at the Helitech 2011 show.
In Europe, the UK and Eire (Eurocopter’s UK jurisdiction) are Eurocopter’s first market for civil helicopters, with a 1,300-strong fleet. Services account for 80 percent of Eurocopter UK’s revenues, while new helicopter sales account for the remaining 20 percent.
For oil and gas flights, there are some 50 Super Pumas based in Aberdeen, Scotland. Bristow, Bond and CHC are flying them an average 1,500 hours per year per aircraft. In terms of orders, “they keep on going,” Steinke said. For example, CHC recently ordered 20 EC225s (not all of them are for European service).
Police units are fragmented, as “the 43 police authorities each have their [own] philosophy,” said Steinke. They have bought helicopters from various manufacturers. Eurocopter claims a 75-percent market share of the 30-helicopter fleet the police authorities are operating. The police are now transitioning to a more centralized plan, which might lead to more orders.
Local charities are in charge of air ambulance and therefore do not feel the effects of any government cuts. This sector will remain fragmented and buy helicopters when needed, according to Steinke.
Corporate/private/VIP helicopters are currently a weak market. In Eire, the fleet now counts 82 aircraft, a threefold reduction in a few years, Steinke told AIN. Eurocopter UK sold two helicopters for these applications last year, and two since the beginning of this year. However, Steinke predicted that VIP helicopters are the next big sales opportunity. “These customers still need aircraft; they have just postponed orders,” he said.
Operators of utility helicopters generally buy secondhand rotorcraft for lighthouse personnel transport and power line surveillance, among other roles. Fire and rescue services may provide a market for the EC145 T2 light twin, Steinke said. The idea would be for them to have one mobile team, instead of several local ones.
Carrying harbor pilots to incoming ships is another hoped-for market. Using a helicopter instead of a small ship increases productivity, Steinke emphasized. UK ports are not using any helicopter yet.
Finally, wind farms are considered a “huge market” (see related story on page XX) but Steinke only forecast 20 aircraft in service in the UK for such missions in 2020.