A view from the top

A view from the top

It was interesting to read Aviation Week Network’s most recent Fleet & MRO forecasts. The annual report highlights the opportunities for growth in the industry, with the overall civil rotary wing active fleet projected to grow at a 1.9% rate over the next decade. Meanwhile, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) is expected to be worth US$9.2bn by 2025.

Developments in technology and partnerships, such as Lockheed Martin’s acquisition of Sikorsky in 2015, are highlighted as opportunities for the market, with advances in lighter-weight composite airframes, new rotor technologies and avionics set to appeal to operators who have delayed replacing equipment in recent times.

MRO demand is set to increase in the US/North American and European regions at a below average rate of 2.5% over the next 10 years, while Latin America will see 3.3% growth. Increased growth rates of 8.8% will be seen elsewhere thanks to the small, but burgeoning, Chinese fleets creating greater maintenance requirements.

Within the MRO business, component maintenance is the largest expense category, with a US$32.8bn, 10-year demand with dynamic components comprising 50% of the segment. While airframe and engine MRO services are expected to grow at the fastest rates, at 2.8% and 2.7% respectively.

However, while the report highlighted the opportunities for growth, a number of concerns were also noted. The most pressing concern raised is continued investment in long-distance offshore equipment required by the oil and gas sector. As we discussed in our previous newsletter article, declining oil prices are still making a serious impact on offshore oil exploration and support missions within the sector.

The impact on the industry was highlighted by the Wall Street Journal in March, when it revealed that the energy-industry downturn has created a huge surplus of helicopters, with a fifth of the 1,900 helicopters serving the oil and gas industries worldwide left idle or underemployed. Operators such as CHC Group and Bristow Group were quoted at the time as saying many people in the sector were surprised by the severity of the downturn.

Despite this downturn, the world’s in-service western helicopter fleet is expected to grow from 29,200 aircraft in 2016 to almost 34,700 aircraft at the end of 2025. The top five aircraft deliveries by type over the next decade are expected to include Airbus Helicopter’s AS350/H125, Bell’s 407, Robinson’s R66, Agusta Westland’s AW139 and Bell’s 505 models.

So, all in all, there is reason to be optimistic about the future of the rotorcraft sector, but there certainly needs to be strategic developments to ensure that the energy sector’s woes do not have a lasting effect on operators and manufacturers.

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