Honeywell's 20th annual “Turbine-powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook,” released on the eve of Heli-Expo 2018, anticipates a better long-term global economic outlook and increased customer confidence, predicting deliveries of between 4,000 and 4,200 new helicopters over the next five years—5 to 10 percent more than the 3,800 handed over between 2013 and 2017. In last year’s forecast, the company (Booth C1329) predicted deliveries of between 3,900 and 4,400 rotorcraft worldwide during the five-year window ending in 2021.
“In addition to better global economic conditions expected in the coming years, potential positive impacts of U.S. tax reform on new helicopter demand and lower volatility in oil and gas-related markets have helped fleet managers confirm what they told us last year,” said Ben Driggs, Honeywell Aerospace’s president for the Americas.
The results indicate that, over the next year, rotorcraft fleet utilization is expected to increase significantly in North America, which is home to more than 40 percent of the world’s helicopter fleet, and more modestly in Europe and Latin America.
Overall, light, single-engine helicopters make up approximately half of the purchase plans, followed by medium twins at 27 percent, light twins at 20 percent, and large cabin multi-engines at 5 percent, up from just 1 percent in last year’s survey. Thirty-four percent of those purchases are expected to occur within the next two years.
In a change this year, brand experience and customer support were noted as the leading motivators in new rotorcraft purchases. “Typically every year when we do this survey, cabin and range are always the number one reason why people are going to buy their next helicopters. Now this year they are down significantly,” said Gaetan Handfield, Honeywell’s senior manager of marketing analysis for the helicopter, business and general aviation markets. “So [we see] a move from technical attributes of the helo to actually more the intangibles of the OEM. This is a first, so we will see if it repeats in the future.”
Broken down by region, 13 percent of North American respondents indicated they would either replace or expand their fleets with a new helicopter over the next five years, and more than 50 percent of those purchases are expected to be light singles, while light and medium twins each accounted for approximately 20 percent.
European operator purchase plans remain stable, with more than 20 percent of the respondents in the region saying they plan to make a new helicopter purchase in the next five years. Notably, 12 percent expect to purchase heavy-twin helicopters, a 10-point increase over last year. Honeywell noted that the sample of Russian operators responding to this year’s survey was small, adding some uncertainty to the overall European results.
In Latin America, the region’s purchase plans exceeded the world average, with 35 percent of respondents reporting intention to purchase over the next five years, an increase of 12 percent from the previous year. It is the only region to anticipate increased purchases based on oil and gas sector usage. Reflecting better economic growth expectations, Brazilian purchase plans increased to 35 percent. More than 50 percent of those purchases are represented by light singles.
The Asia-Pacific area saw an overall 18 percent positive response when asked about purchase plans over the forecast window. Plans in China increased by 9 percent year-over-year, to more than 21 percent, while the replacement plans in India plunged by more than 40 percent.
The region with the lowest purchase expectations was the Middle East and Africa, with only 10 percent of operators there responding that they expected to purchase a new helicopter over the next five years. Of those light, single-engine rotorcraft represented the vast majority of purchase plans.
Among expected usage for the planned purchases, medevac and search and rescue (SAR) rose significantly, from 13 percent in last year’s survey to 22 percent this year, while oil and gas declined year-over-year from 13 percent to 7 percent.
“We’ve been hearing from the OEMs over the past two or three years that EMS was coming,” Handfield told AIN, “that it would be the market segment that would actually buy a lot of new helos down the road. We believe there’s a replacement cycle starting for EMS—it was the case 10 to 15 years ago—and I think they are actually at the point where they have to replace all their helicopters.”
In North America, fully one-third of the planned purchase mentions concerned medevac and SAR use, up from 11 percent last year. Asia and Europe also showed strong growth in plans for the segment.
The results of this year’s survey are based on responses from more than 1,000 chief pilots and flight department managers from companies operating 3,489 turbine and 334 piston helicopters worldwide, excluding major fleet operators, representing approximately 14 percent of the world’s fleet. Honeywell strives to ensure that the sample is geographically representative of the installed base.