The super-medium helicopter is the “defining new commercial rotary product of the 2010s,” according to a report released this week by helicopter lessor Waypoint Leasing. Until the Leonardo AW189 and Airbus H175 entered service in 2014,there was not a single civil helicopter that bridged the gap between the medium and heavy helicopter market segments, the company said. Bell’s 525 Relentless, which is slated to enter service in 2019, will also fall into this new category.
According to the report, the super-mediums have closed the 15,432- to 24,251-pound (seven to 11-metric-ton) gap in payload range, with offerings that are less expensive to operate than new-build heavy helicopters. To date, more than 60 super-medium helicopters are in service, with some 225 on order, “suggesting that the anticipated fleet will likely be a significant provider of capacity well into the future.”
Waypoint said both the AW189 and H175 expand on the mission profile of medium helicopters and, despite a three-passenger capacity disadvantage, “they can accomplish many, if not most, of the missions that have been done by heavy helicopters historically.” However, given the availability of pre-owned S-92s due to oil-and-gas industry woes, “operators may find that heavy aircraft can be had today at acquisition prices or lease rates that place them on par with the super-mediums from a cost per seat mile perspective,” Waypoint noted.
Regarding the oil-and-gas industry, the lessor said this industry is beginning to rebound. “With the increase in rig activity, oil company earnings and tender activity, the requirement for safe and efficient helicopter transportation will expand anew in which super-medium helicopters will play a more prevalent role,” it concluded.