While the future is inherently hard to predict (especially when it comes to the economy), the more than 1,000 chief pilots and flight department managers who were questioned for Honeywell’s 14th annual Turbine-Powered Civilian Helicopter Outlook plan to buy “strong” in 2012, but are uncertain about 2013 and beyond. The survey, which represents a pool of operators flying almost 2,500 helicopters, examines the five-year period covering 2012 to 2016. Rolls-Royce decided not to conduct a rotorcraft forecast this year, according to a company spokesman.
Despite “lingering tight credit conditions” and a large fleet of used aircraft available, manufacturers are projected to deliver between 4,700 to 5,200 helicopters over the course of the half-decade, which “still” amounts to an increase over the previous five years of 2007 to 2011—a period that includes the downturn that started in 2008. In the short term, the outlook is very positive—up 30 percent over 2011. Examples of this were apparent during Heli-Expo, with a number of new purchases announced, including Eurocopter securing orders for 105 EC130T2s from seven launch customers.
But it gets a little cloudy after that, with operators holding cards closer to their vests. Concerns about slow economic growth “has increased the level of uncertainty in purchase plans past 2012,” according to the report. Purchasing could increase in the short and long terms if “political and general economic conditions improve,” it continues. The development of the Chinese market could offset some of the “softness” experienced in other regions such as the U.S. and Europe, which are expected to see a decrease in fleet replacement and expansion purchases.
Latin America has the highest rate of replacements and additions among all regions classified in the survey (broken down into North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Middle East/Africa), with around 40 percent in 2011. While that represents a decrease from 2010’s record number of about 60 percent, the figure places the region among the highest in the world. Asia and Latin America are tied for the world’s third largest markets, following North America and Europe. Global demand for new turbine helicopters is split roughly 50-50 between North/South America and the rest of the planet, according to the study.
For the 2012 iteration of the outlook, Honeywell asked respondents about satisfaction levels and whether they would recommend the current helicopter they fly. With the disclaimer that there were “many other makes/models currently in production that received excellent scores” but didn’t make the top five, the quintet that accounts for 45 percent of all specific make/model responses consists of the AgustaWestland AW109, Bell 407 and 429, Eurocopter EC130/AS350 series and EC145.