Led by Europe, demand for civil helicopters is showing signs of recovery and deliveries in the 2011-15 period will be 5% higher than over the last five years, at 4,200-4,400 aircraft, projects Honeywell.
The avionics-to-engines manufacturer says improved economic growth is combining with new models to drive purchase expectations, but cautions the impact on fuel prices of political instability in the Middle East is not factored into its latest turbine-powered helicopter market forecast.
A survey of more than 1,000 chief pilots and flight-department managers operating 2,150 helicopters worldwide showed a 2% increase in their five-year fleet replacement and expansion plans. Although modest, this ends two years of declining demand, Honeywell says. Planned fleet utilization also increased in almost all regions.
Substantially higher purchase expectations in Europe, compared with the 2010 survey, drove the increase in forecast deliveries. Purchase plans remained steady in the U.S. and Asia, and while expectations declined modestly in other regions they stayed above the world average.
With lingering tight credit conditions and a glut of used current-production aircraft, little uptick in aircraft orders is expected this year, but purchase expectations for 2012 and 2013 are 40% up over 2011, suggesting the recovery will accelerate next year, says Honeywell.
While light single- and twin-turbine helicopters will continue to account for two-thirds of deliveries, there is a surge in demand for medium twins, Honeywell says, particularly in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and India where they make up 50-60% of planned purchases.
For the first time, Honeywell asked operators to indicate their satisfaction with the helicopters they fly. The AgustaWestland A109 Grand and AW139, Bell 407, and Eurocopter AS350B and EC145 ranked highest and can be considered benchmarks for current production helicopters, the company says.