In the face of a softening economy, the turbine-powered civil helicopter market grew at least 25 percent in 2007 and is predicted to grow by up to 50 percent through 2012, according to the Honeywell 10th annual Turbine- Powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook. Based on surveys of more than 1,000 flight departments worldwide, the outlook forecasts deliveries of 4,450 new civil helicopters from 2008 to 2012. This is up 27 percent over the 3,500-unit, five-year prediction in Honeywell´s 2007 forecast and represents a 50 percent jump over the number of helicopters delivered between 2003 and 2007.
For 2008, Honeywell believes helicopter deliveries will exceed 800 units, but said the surveys indicate that "latent demand" could push demand to more than 1,000 units a year - assuming that OEMs do not encounter capacity limits. Demand could top 10,000 new civil helicopters through 2018, Honeywell projected.
"Survey results have now improved for the last five years, and OEMs report strong sales activity supporting our view that helicopter demand has great long-range prospects in a growing global economy," said Mike Cuff, Honeywell vice president, helicopters and surface systems.
Demand for light single- and intermediate twin-engine models will fuel the growth with new technology generating interest in purchase decisions, Honeywell said. "The decision to acquire new helicopters is driven primarily by the age of current aircraft which is usually reflected in an operator´s desire for better technology, more range, more power, cargo or passenger capacity and lower operating costs," Cuff said.
Overall, purchase expectations grew about 20 percent, according to respondents of Honeywell´s worldwide survey of civil helicopter operators. But few operators indicated interest in trading up to larger models. Some 80 percent of new purchases will replace older aircraft in the same size, capability and price class, Honeywell said. About 16 percent of operators discussed buying a more expensive and capable helicopter. A majority of the operators interested in trading up fly light-twin helicopters and want to move into the medium-twin class.
Corporate, emergency medical services and law enforcement operators account for more than 65 percent of actual and projected civil helicopter sales, Honeywell said. In North America, new purchase mentions for corporate use nearly doubled from 11 percent a year ago to 20 percent in the most recent survey. EMS applications remained steady at 26 percent and law enforcement leveled off at 20 percent. Utility mentions accounted for 23 percent.
Single-engine aircraft are capturing the greatest amount of interest in North America, with 59 percent of planned purchases expected in this category. But interest in single-engine aircraft is down from recent years, while the light-twin category has risen 12 points to 23 percent in the most recent survey.
The North American market remains the largest for helicopter manufacturers, accounting for 40 percent of planned future purchases. This is slightly lower than last year. But buying plans in North America overall were up.
Strong International Growth
In Europe, where regulations require twin-engine aircraft over congested areas, the majority of operators still are looking to buy multi-engine helicopters. But Honeywell also noted that for the third year in a row, interest in single-engine helicopters is growing, with about 46 percent of the sales expected to be single-engine helicopters. This compares with an average of 30 percent before 2006.
Honeywell estimates that 20 percent of new turbine-powered helicopter sales will occur in Europe. The emerging growth in Eastern Europe and Russia and the strength of the euro are major factors in the improving European market.
Honeywell also sees the market flourishing in Asia, Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, which collectively could account for 22 percent of total world new helicopter sales over the next five years - with up to 75 percent of the demand for multi-engine aircraft. Close to 37 percent of the intended purchases in the Asia/ Pacific region are for corporate use, while oil and gas exploration is expected to account for 42 percent of helicopter purchases in Africa and the Middle East.
Purchase expectations in Latin America rebounded in the most recent survey after falling by more than 10 points in the 2007 survey. Latin America is expected to account for 18 percent of the overall demand, and about half of the purchase expectations are for single-engine aircraft.
Light single-engine helicopters will remain the largest sellers in all the regions combined, accounting for 47 percent. Intermediate twin helicopters are expected to capture about 29 percent of the new sales, and remain the most popular class in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Light twins, however, have gained, accounting for 22 percent of total expected sales. This is up from the 16 percent recorded last year. Heavy lift helicopter sales will remain a small percentage of the overall sales. Purchase mentions have run between 2 percent and 5 percent over the last four surveys.