Asia, Middle East, Africa to fuel civil chopper demand

New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) Asia, the Middle East and Africa will lead the charge as the demand for new civil helicopters globally over the next five years (2013-17) is set to increase between 4,900 to 5,600.

According to the Honeywell's 15th Turbine-Powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook report, carried in the current issue of India Strategic magazine (www.indiastrategic.in), 35 percent of Asian operators plan increases and only six percent plan decreases.

In the Middle East and Africa: 33 percent of operators plan increases and only 15 percent plan decreases.

For other regions, the survey observed:

* North America: 10 percent of operators planned increases, against only three percent planning decreases.

* Europe: 16 percent of operators plan increases, and only seven percent plan decreases.

* Latin America: 27 percent of operators plan increases and only five percent plan decreases.

The report says that the drivers for new purchase expectations were aircraft age and condition, contractual requirements, change in operational requirements, expiring warranties and regulations requiring twin engines.

Honeywell does not make aircraft but its propulsion, safety, mapping and communications technologies are virtually on every western aircraft, helicopter and spaceship, including those sourced by India.

"The buyer confidence reflected in this year's survey is a much-needed shot in the arm for the industry," said Brian Sill, vice president, Honeywell Aftermarket Helicopter Sales.

"Supporting the growth numbers is the fact that helicopter usage for corporate, oil and gas, utility, and training missions is improving, which shows that helicopters are value-added aircraft in today's business environment," he added.

Based on survey results, delivery rates of new helicopters over the next three years are expected to reach 1,000 new units each year. Purchase plans for new helicopters for the three-year time frame are 35 percent higher than last year's survey. The latter part of the five-year outlook is also expected to fill in and achieve similar delivery rates if economic recovery trends are sustained.

The five-year share of demand from the US and Canada is 27 percent, and combined, the Western Hemisphere represents 47 percent of total global demand. Europe's share of five-year demand closely matches that of North America with 28 percent.

Demand in Asia/Oceania accounts for 19 percent over the next five years and the Africa/Middle East share would be a little over six percent.

Higher purchase plans were found across the board in all regions this year. Purchase plans in major US and European centres of demand rose this year by three and seven points respectively. All other regions also improved moderately compared with 2012, and their purchase plans remain above the world average rate.

Specific purchase plans just for 2013 remain strong and improved over levels reported in the 2012 survey.

The expectation for new aircraft orders in 2013 is up by over 30 percent compared with the 2012 levels, suggesting the recovery will maintain momentum this year, the survey noted.

Global five-year demand for new turbine-powered helicopters is split almost 50-50 between the Americas and the rest of the world. Latin America and Asia continue to have the highest fleet replacement and expansion expectations among the regions. In terms of projected regional demand for new helicopters, Latin America and Asia remain in close competition to claim the world's third largest regional market, following North America and Europe.

"Honeywell is well positioned to support the growth the industry expects during the next five years," Sill said.

Operators who indicated the intent to replace a currently owned helicopter with a new one within the next five years cited "age of current aircraft" or "normal planned or contracted replacement cycle" as key drivers for their decision.

Once the choice to replace a current helicopter in the fleet or expand operations has been made, the make/model choice is influenced strongly by performance criteria including range, cabin size, reliability and safety, hot/high performance, and brand experience.

The report also noted that light single-engine helicopters continue to be the most popular during the five-year fleet replacement and expansion, including in the Middle East and Africa.

Intermediate/medium twin-engine helicopters tied for the second most popular product class mentioned for purchase during the next five years, holding roughly the same market share as in the 2012 Outlook.

The survey does not reflect unforeseen events such as an unexpected economic downturn but has factored the ongoing political instability in the Middle East and current slow economic growth projections for Western economies as well as potentially sensitive fuel price volatility and possible supply disruptions.