LCI Sees Recovering Market for Leased Helicopters

 - October 12, 2016, 8:52 AM
LCI anticipates a growing market for helicopter leasing to give operators the flexibility to adjust their fleets to market conditions. (Photo: LCI)

Enjoying what it says is its busiest year to date, Lease Corporation International (LCI) has leased three Airbus Helicopters H130s to Aviators Air Rescue in India. Based in Bangalore, Aviators is India’s first civil helicopter emergency service offering advanced life support capability. The company is working with Air Medical Group to deliver EMS capability.

For LCI the Aviators agreement represents the first foothold in what it sees as a promising market. The company, which leases both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, has seen its helicopter business grow considerably this year. Eighteen new helicopters are being delivered during the year, bringing its lease portfolio to 40 helicopters with an average age of two years. The company also manages another 50 machines.

LCI has concentrated in the medium sector, and its portfolio focuses on the AW139/169/189 from Leonardo and the Airbus Helicopters H175. Fifteen of this year’s 18 deliveries are from Leonardo, and the two companies have signed deals for more. Announced at the Helitech show in Amsterdam was an order covering three more AW169s to be delivered next year. LCI was the launch customer for the AW169 and currently has five in its fleet. The delivery of the first of three for Italian operator Elitaliana’s EMS operations was also announced during Helitech.

EMS is an important part of LCI’s approach to placing its aircraft. Oil and gas represents around 30 percent of its business, and so the effect of the oil price drop was mitigated by strong growth in other areas. The company’s executive chairman, Crispin Maunder, nevertheless sees the negative effects of the oil price drop receding and expects that oil and gas will grow as an element of the company’s business. “I think the offshore business will recover gently over the next year,” he remarked. “I see it easing back up to 40 to 45 percent of our business.” Windfarm support is another area where growth is forecast: LCI already has four helicopters engaged in this work.

LCI orders its new helicopters in a baseline configuration specified by the company, which can be adapted to suit customer requirements. This allows them to be reconfigured to other roles at the end of a contract.

Maunder foresees a growing shift toward leasing in the medium/heavy helicopter market, which currently runs at around 10 percent of the fleet. Operators have traditionally wanted to buy fleets outright, but many are coming to appreciate the flexibility of acquiring a portion of their helicopters under lease. “I could see leasing growing to around 25 percent in this sector,” commented Maunder.