We get behind the controls of a Magni M16 gyroplane, chat with NASA engineers about the Mars Helicopter, look at Helinet’s firefighting Black Hawk & reflect on the legacy left by Universal Helicopters.
More than 4,000 civil helicopter deliveries are expected in the next five years starting in 2020, a slight increase over the previous civil helicopter market outlook prepared annually by Honeywell, though purchase plans for the next five years are slightly down.
Data collected in 2019 show increased deliveries despite slightly lower purchase plans than the previous year, according to the “Turbine-Powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook.” Honeywell forecasts 4,100 civil helicopters delivered through 2024.
That number is about 14 percent higher than the 3,500 civil aircraft delivered between 2014 and 2018. Annual growth rate of deliveries over the next five years is 2.7 percent, or about 800 new helicopters per year, which tracks with global economic growth outlook.
“Comparing this year to last year, I see fairly flat results,” Gaetan Handfield, Honeywell’s senior manager of marketing analysis, told Vertical in a recent interview. “When you start looking at reasons, then you start seeing variations, which are in some cases significant.”
Orders increased in Europe and Latin America — a huge 20-point jump — while slightly lower in North America.
Despite the dip in purchase plans, reported utilization rates are up, meaning operators plan to put more hours on their aircraft over the next year. Growth also is supported by the entry to service and production ramp up for several new models, including the Airbus H160, Kopter SH09 and Bell 525, Handfield told Vertical.
“I think it is the main driver of the increase from the previous five years to the next five,” Handfield said. “Even the [Leonardo AW]169, the 189, these helos that were introduced a few years ago, and now they are on the more ‘cruise control’. . . . New-model introduction is a key component of the growth.”
In the longer term, more favorable exchange rates and an expected increase, if modest, in oil prices should also help, he said.
A greater proportion of planned new helicopter purchases is for light twin-engine models, 22 percent of all mentions in this year’s survey compared with 2019 and lower for light single-engine models. Overall, 56 percent of planned purchases are for twin-engine models, eight percentage points higher than last year.
As for usage plans, corporate/VIP transport leads the pack at 25 percent of all planned usage followed by EMS and search-and-rescue with 24 percent, both of which increased from the previous survey. Law enforcement at 14 percent and oil-and-gas at four percent of planned usage both fell from previous years.
With an outlook of five years, the forecast does not yet reflect the impact electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) and urban air mobility (UAM) expanding will have on the civil rotorcraft market.
“The sector that will be most impacted with the introduction of urban air mobility down the road is really the light singles, and the short-cabin ones,” Handfield said. “The long cabin ones should be OK. There are some missions that urban air mobility will not be able to do because of range or a lack of payload, maybe. The Bell 505, the Robinson [R]44, these segments I’m worried about.”
The forecast report compiles data from about 1,000 operators surveyed between mid-October and mid-December. Respondents collectively operate about 3,600 turbine-powered and 282 piston-powered helicopters, which is just over 14 percent of the world fleet. Surveys were distributed according to the percentage of global install base.
“We had to make sure that, even by country, everyone is represented in the survey based on the install base,” Handfield said.
North America: Purchase plans have declined by six percentage points over a year ago, with 12 percent of respondents saying they would either replace or expand their fleet with a new helicopter over the next five years. North America is home to more than 40 percent of the world’s helicopter fleet.
Nearly half of planned North American purchases were identified as light single-engine models, while roughly 32 percent of new planned purchases were for intermediate and medium-twin product classes.
About 38 percent of planned purchases will be used for emergency medical services (EMS) purposes, followed by 20 percent for law enforcement and 17 percent for corporate/VIP usage.
Europe: Compared with 2019 results, purchase plans are higher in this year’s survey. More than 18 percent of respondents said they would either replace or expand their fleet with a new helicopter over the next five years. The figure was 15 percent a year ago.
Intermediate and medium twin-engine classes captured roughly 41 percent of total purchase plans for new helicopters. Meanwhile, 37 percent of respondents indicated plans to purchase light single-engine helicopters, up five percentage points from last year.
About 26 percent of planned purchases will be used for utility/aerial work, followed by 23 percent for corporate/VIP and 16 percent for EMS/search-and-rescue (SAR) usage.
Latin America: Results for 2020 show significantly higher fleet replacement and growth expectations compared with 2019. Purchase plans are well above the global average of 14 percent, and the region’s purchase plans increased by 20 percentage points from last year.
Latin America had the highest rate of new aircraft purchase plans globally, with close to 29 percent of respondents saying they would either replace or expand their fleet with a new helicopter over the next five years.
Purchase plans in Brazil increased to 26 percent, a jump of 21 percentage points over last year’s survey results.
Latin American respondents favored light single-engine models, which represent about 50 percent of their planned purchases. Light twin-engine models are second with 28 percent of all planned purchases, an increase of 23 percentage points compared with 2019 survey results.
Middle East and Africa: This region has the lowest new purchase rate globally, with only five percent of respondents’ fleets expected to get a new helicopter replacement or addition. Purchase plans are 10 percentage points lower compared with 2019 survey results.
Close to 62 percent of planned new helicopter purchases are for light twin-engine models.
Medium twin-engine models are the second-highest mentioned product class in the survey at 23 percent, a decline of 46 percentage points compared with 2019 survey results.
Asia Pacific: Overall buying plans are down six percentage points compared with 2019. Close to seven percent of respondents said they would either replace or expand their fleet with a new helicopter over the next five years.
Intermediate/medium twin-engine and light single-engine helicopters were the most popular classes, capturing 38 percent and 35 percent of all mentions for new helicopters, respectively.
Despite limited inputs, new helicopter purchase plans are lower in China, showing that about 14 percent of the fleet would be replaced or expanded by a new helicopter over the next five years. Purchase plans are down by about seven percentage points compared with 2019 results.