Turbine-Powered Civil Helo Purchase Outlook

By James T. McKenna | March 6, 2017
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Los Angeles Police Department H125

Photo courtesy of Airbus Helicopters

Honeywell Aerospace has trimmed about 400 helicopters from its annual forecast of rotorcraft deliveries over the next five years, the second year in a row that the company has pared its rolling five-year outlook by that amount.

The avionics and engine maker projects the delivery of 3,900 to 4,400 civilian-use helicopters from 2017 to 2021. For Heli-Expo last year, it forecast that 4,300 to 4,800 such helicopters would be delivered from 2016 to 2020, roughly 400 fewer than its 2015 five-year forecast.


“The current global economic situation is causing fleet managers to evaluate new helicopter purchases closely, and that’s why we’re seeing a more cautious five-year demand projection compared with previous years,” said Ben Driggs, president, Americas for Honeywell Aerospace.

Each year, Honeywell interviews 1,000 owners, operators, chief pilots and others flying turbine-powered about their purchasing intentions over the next five years. The interviewees and operators change each year. For the first time this year, Honeywell asked operators about their use of unmanned aircraft.

Honeywell helicopter purchase outlook

“Interviews were conducted between late November and the end of January,” said Charles Park, Honeywell Aerospace’s director of market analysis. “So they spanned across the U.S. presidential election and transition and across continued turmoil in the Middle East. They spanned across some ongoing tensions in the South China Sea and across a lot of consternation in Latin America over immigration and trade policy.

“So there are some backdrops to this kind of result that makes sense when you put it into context of it what might have been on the operators’ minds when they were responding to these interviews,” Park said.

Those results show that purchasing plans have been impacted by a slow global economic growth environment and volatility in oil and gas-related markets, as well as other factors like a strong U.S. dollar.

The survey found that new purchase-plan rates were lower for the next five years, for all regions.

The survey also found that helicopter fleet utilization in the past 12 months generally increased compared with last year. 
Over the next 12 months, usage rates are expected to improve significantly in North America and Latin America, but at a reduced rate in Europe, Honeywell said.

With regards to drones, Park said surveyors asked operators about their current use of small unmanned aircraft and their plans to add them to their operations in the next five years.

“We found that approximately 6% of the operators are using an unmanned aerial system or a drone of some kind in their operations,” Park said. “Of those that do not use them now, roughly another 10 percent said that they would be likely to start using one or more in the next five years.”

“So you're looking at about 15% of respondents that indicates either current or planned future use of UASs, and the overwhelming majority of them are very small class aircraft, under 100 pounds,” he added. “And they're used to supplement existing rotorcraft operation to a much greater extent than to replace existing rotorcraft.”

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