Buyer confidence a 'shot in the arm' for helo industry

Forecast shows North America purchase plans up in first time in four years

March 5, 2013

helo sales Click on image to view the turbine powered civilian helicopter purchase outlook. (Credit: Honeywell)

The next five years will be bright for civil helicopter demand, with strong demand focused on the first three years, according to Honeywell Aerospace’s helicopter outlook released March 5.

The forecast, based on a survey of more than 1,000 chief pilots and flight department managers and an assessment of other market data, projected that global deliveries of new civilian-use helicopters will increase to 4,900 to 5,600 over the five-year period of 2013 to 2017—a 9- to 20-percent improvement from global deliveries in 2008 to 2012. North American purchase plans increased for the first time in four years, according to the 2013 Turbine-Powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook, released during Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo in Las Vegas.

“The buyer confidence reflected in this year’s survey is a much needed shot in the arm for the industry,” said Brian Sill, vice president of Honeywell Aftermarket Helicopter Sales, in a media release. “Supporting the growth numbers is the fact that helicopter usage for corporate, oil and gas, utility, and training missions is improving, which shows that helicopters are value-add aircraft in today’s business environment.” Sill said Honeywell is well positioned to support the industry’s growth with its propulsion, safety, mapping, and communications technologies and services.

Signs of recovery

The Honeywell forecast is based on the customer expectation survey as well as an assessment of consensus forecasts, a review of factory delivery rates, and analysis of future new helicopter introductions.

Purchase plans reported for the next three years are 35 percent higher than last year’s survey, Honeywell said, with deliveries of new helicopters expected to reach 1,000 each year. The company expects the latter years of the outlook to reach similar delivery rates “if economic recovery trends are sustained.” Expectations for new aircraft orders in 2013 are up more than 30 percent compared with 2012, the company added.

Honeywell attributed the uptick in new purchase expectations to “aircraft age and condition, contractual requirements, change in operational requirements, expiring warranties, and regulations requiring twin engines.”

Light helos lead demand

Light single-engine helicopters remain the most popular product class for fleet replacement and expansion, Honeywell found. Within that class, the most frequently mentioned models were Eurocopter EC130/AS350 series, Bell 407, and Robinson R66.

Three manufacturers represented the majority of mentions by chief pilots and flight department managers that were surveyed: Eurocopter, Bell Helicopter, and AgustaWestland. Helicopters produced by all remaining original equipment manufacturers represented less than 15 percent of mentions. Six models—AgustaWestland AW139, Bell 206 series, Bell 407, Bell 412, Eurocopter EC130/EC350 series, and Sikorsky S-76, listed in alphabetical order—accounted for nearly 50 percent of all survey make/model mentions “and can be considered the top current production helicopters in terms of recent customer satisfaction attitudes and likelihood to promote.”

Global market

The 2013 report found higher purchase plans for helicopters in all regions over the five years, with the highest level of fleet replacement, 34 percent, in Latin America.

Over those five years, Honeywell predicts the United States and Canada will represent 27 percent of global demand, with Europe at a comparable 28 percent. By contrast, the company’s business aviation outlook from late 2012 put North America’s share of business jet demand at 53 percent.