The industry gears up for its annual group hug, this year back in Las Vegas (March 15 to 17) against a backdrop of decent sales figures for new civil helicopters over the past year and a forecast of modest growth over the next eight. According to Bill Dane, senior analyst at Forecast International, between 2003 and 2012 projected deliveries are 9,500 helicopters valued at $19 billion.
CHC Helicopter of St. John’s, Newfoundland, last month signed a letter of intent to buy Schreiner Aviation Group in the Netherlands. CHC expects to complete confirmatory due diligence and negotiate final agreements, subject to regulatory approval, for a closing by the end of this month. Schreiner operates 33 helicopters and 17 airplanes, providing air services primarily to the offshore oil and gas industry in Europe, Africa and Asia.
A Eurocopter AS 365N Dauphin, operated by CHC Scotia, crashed on December 27 near an oil rig in the East Irish Sea. None of the two crew or five passengers survived; one body is missing. The 20-year-old airframe had not been recovered at press time. The accident took place at about 6:35 p.m. local time, some 1,500 feet from the North Morecambe platform, on a flight from the Millom West platform.
While Eurocopter remains the leader in unit sales of civil helicopters, its competitors are honing their products. The company’s management team is well aware of the pressure, as one official recently expressed concern about new competing products from Western manufacturers. He stated that they will soon be as capable as, and less expensive than, Eurocopter’s.
An air-medical AB139 that will be used by Italian operator Airgreen during next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Turin is on display here in Paris on the ramp beside the Bell/Agusta Aerospace chalet (A382). The twin-turbine helicopter’s unobstructed, 282-cu.-ft.
Paris-based Héli-Union, which operates a fleet of 35 mostly twin-engine helicopters mainly for oil majors, has signed a draft joint venture operating agreement with Kazakhstan’s leading oil group. As part of the collaborative accord with Euro-Asia Air, in June the company took delivery of Eurocopter’s 800th Dauphin, which began operations in Kazakhstan in August.
Norway’s Helikopter Service, now part of CHC Europe, a division of CHC Helicopter Corp. of Canada, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The company, founded in Oslo by Morten Hanke in 1956, was the first to begin civil helicopter operations in Norway, with a Bell 47.
If sales are the standard by which the success of an aviation trade show is measured, Heli-Expo 2006 will go down as an unqualified triumph, with announced helicopter sales contracts tallying more than $620 million among all the major manufacturers.
It will come as no surprise to industry watchers that Eurocopter had another good year last year. Its $4 billion order book was its best in the last five years. The total included $1.7 billion worth of new helicopters–equivalent to 401 airframes–and 70 percent of that sum was for export.
Max-Viz, the Portland, Ore. manufacturer of infrared enhanced vision systems (EVS), is at Heli-Expo 2006 with a recent order for its EVS-1000 system to equip the Canadian Helicopters fleet.