What Factors Influence Operators to Buy New Helicopters?

By Woodrow Bellamy III | February 27, 2018
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Bell 505. Photo courtesy of Bell

Helicopter operator purchasing decisions are increasingly influenced by brand experience and customer support, according to a new helicopter purchasing forecast. The forecast, released annually by Honeywell Aerospace ahead of Heli-Expo, found a significant drop in the number of operators surveyed claiming their purchasing decisions are influenced primarily by cabin size and range.

The survey includes responses from more than 1,000 civilian chief pilots and flight department managers globally operating just under 4,000 helicopters. While operators will still purchase helicopters with range and cabin size that meets their mission needs, the number of respondents placing importance on brand experience was significant, said Gaetan Handfield, senior manager for marketing analysis at Honeywell Aerospace, who manages the survey and forecasting analysis.


“We asked operators what’s driving the model choice, the ones they want to buy in the future," said Handfield. "This year we noticed less importance on cabin and range, and that drop was significant. The number one factor is brand experience and the second highest factor is customer support."

According to Handfield, there are currently 24,900 turbine-powered helicopters in service globally, and Honeywell is predicting new deliveries between 4,000 to 4,200 civilian-use helicopters through 2022. Latin America remains the most active region for purchases of new helicopters, with more than 35 percent of respondents in that region saying they plan on new purchases by 2022. Brazil and Mexico are two of the most active locations in Latin America, according to Handfield, with an estimated 65% of the in-service fleet in Mexico to be replaced within the next five years.

Across nearly all the regions surveyed, light single-engine helicopters are the leading model type to be purchased by operators. In the Asia-Pacific region, however, operators were split between light single-engine and medium twin-engine helicopters, both capturing about 35% of new purchasing plans.

The survey also found planned usage for newly purchased helicopters is lead by emergency medical services and search and rescue missions. In contrast, planned usage for oil and gas was down significantly compared to the 2017 survey, with only 7% of respondents saying they would use new helicopters for oil and gas operations.

That continues a trend that has been ongoing in recent years, most notably by the annual Airbus Helicopters press conference, where outgoing CEO Guillaume Faury said the OEM has not received new orders for offshore-configured H225 heavy twin engines in the past two years.

Respondents were also surveyed about purchase plans for used helicopters, and 22% of them said they did intend to purchase used helicopters within the next five years, a statistic not seen in Honeywell’s survey since 2015.

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