Sunday, March 1, 2015

Civil helicopter demand remains steady over next five years

In its 17th annual Turbine-Powered Civil Helicopter Purchasing Outlook, Honeywell Aerospace expects that 4,750-5,250 civilian-use helicopters will be delivered during 2015-2019. The 2015 outlook presents a snapshot of the helicopter business at a point in time and reflects the current business and political environment.

The forecast estimates the five-year share of demand from the U.S. and Canada at 34 percent, up nearly eight points on stronger North American buying plans. When combined with Latin America, the Western Hemisphere represents 53 percent of the five-year global demand. Europe's share tallies 24 percent, with the Asia-Oceania region accounting for 14 percent, and Africa and the Middle East contributing nine percent.

Operators who intend to purchase a helicopter within the next five years noted that the age of their current aircraft (which includes factors such as maintenance costs, performance erosion and safety concerns), contracted replacement cycle and warranty expiration were all key reasons for their decision.

"Purchase interest for helicopters in training, tourism, firefighting and law enforcement categories is trending up,” said Mike Madsen, president, Defense and Space, Honeywell Aerospace.

Operator preferences by class of helicopter
  • Light single-engine helicopters continue to be the most popular helicopter class, garnering almost half the new purchase interest in the 2015 survey. The Airbus EC130/AS350 series, Bell 407, Bell 505 and Robinson R66 were the most frequently mentioned models.
  • Intermediate and medium twin-engine helicopters are the second most popular product class, with approximately 31 percent of total survey participants planning to buy a new model of this type. The most frequently mentioned models were the AW139, AW169, Bell 412, EC145T2 and Sikorsky S-76 series. Emerging super-medium-class helicopters such as the AW189, Bell 525 and EC175 rely on large fleet operators in the energy, natural resource, and search and rescue sectors for substantial portions of their demand, and may be underrepresented in the current survey sample. Near-term interest may be volatile based on conditions in the energy markets.
  • The light twin helicopter class earned between 18-19 percent of total operator purchase plans in the 2015 survey, with the EC135, Bell 429 and AW109 series helicopters noted most frequently.
  • Heavy multi-engine helicopters, such as the EC225, AW101 and S-92, registered small but steady levels of new helicopter purchase plans in the 2015 survey; however, demand from large oil and gas fleet operators not included in the survey continues to support volume in the heavy class even though some near-term replacement activity may be deferred. Mi-8/17 purchase plans are not fully represented due to limited response from Russian operators in the 2015 survey.
Satisfaction with aircraft 

Again in this year's survey, Honeywell asked all respondents to indicate their current satisfaction over the past year with each model of aircraft they operate. For models that received more than 25 responses, the make and models with the highest net scores are the AW139, Robinson R66, Bell 407, Bell 429, Bell 412, Bell 206L, EC135, EC145, AS350B series and Sikorsky S-76C.

These top platforms account for over 70 percent of all survey make and model mentions and can be considered the top current production helicopters in terms of recent customer satisfaction attitudes and likelihood to promote.

Helicopter use expected to increase 

Helicopter fleet utilization is expected to increase this year. Planned increases by region include:
  • North America: 27 percent of operators plan increases and only six percent plan decreases.
  • Europe: 10 percent of operators plan increases and four percent plan decreases.
  • Latin America: 45 percent of operators plan increases and only four percent plan decreases.
  • Middle East and Africa: 18 percent of operators plan increases and only three percent plan decreases.
  • Asia-Oceania: 14 percent of operators plan increases and six percent plan decreases.
Oil and gas operators reported the highest flight-hour use per aircraft at approximately 850 hours per year, followed by tourism with a strong increase to just under 700 hours per year and then law enforcement at more than 600 hours per year. Emergency medical services, training, firefighting and general utility were closely grouped at approximately 400-450 hours per year. The lowest average use was reported by corporate segment operators at just over 360 hours per helicopter per year.

As a side note, the U.S. Transportation Command is currently seeking a contractor that may be able to provide four heavy rotary wing aircraft capable of flying 150 hours per aircraft per month (1,800 hours per year).

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