The global commercial helicopter industry was valued at $8.2 billion in 2017 but by 2027 it could go up to $11.6 billion. Key factors include rising demand from emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Latin America which utilize the aircraft for emergency services,law enforcement, transport and tourism.
The use of helicopters has gone up in different sectors-medical ,tourism,miltary commercial transportation and so on. And the trend is likely to be sustained for the long run with research
pointing to its market value rising fromUS$8.2 billion in 2017 to US$11.6 billion by 2027.
Key factors that play a role apart from offshore oil and gas, include rising demand from emerging economies in
Asia Pacific, Middle East and Latin America for use in emergency services, law enforcement, transport and tourism, according to independent aviation consultancy firm IBA.
Typical missions in the civil and parapublic market are commercial air transport, private and business aviation,
emergency medical services, law enforcement, firefighting and aerialwork.
Commercial segment can be separated into two main activities: passenger transportation (charter, taxi, shuttle, tourism) and aerial work (external loads,surveillance, agricultural, power line surveillance/maintenance, harbor pilot,etc.).
Airbus Helicopters’ aircraft are deployed worldwide while responding to all requirements of commercial operations. Customers of any size – from singleaircraft owners to operators with sizable fleets – can rely on the company’s worldwide network of service centers for guidance, training and support.
The fact that helicopters can be easily maneuvered in small areas they are commonly used in medical and
emergency situations.Globally, North America has the highest commercial helicopter fleet with US and
Canada as the top two countries with the most number of helicopters in 2017.
Europe and Asia-Pacific regions follow, with UK, France, Italy, Australia, and China standing among the top 10 countries with highest number of commercial helicopters fleet globally, in 2017.
After a slowdown due to global economic downturn, the helicopter industry is now seeing signs of recovery.
Rotorcraft still maintains its unique advantages in terms of operational versatility and accessibility to confined
areas where no other means of transportation can, whether flying or on the surface.
Commercial applications like those for public utility services including emergency medical service, search and
rescue, disaster relief and firefighting strongly contribute to respond to demand from the growing social relevance of helicopters in both long established and emerging markets worldwide. Passenger transport benefits from greater capabilities, safety and all weather flights.
A spokesperson from Leonardo Helicopters notes, “The oil and gas industry needs vertical lift for safe, long
range missions and the wind farm segment is offering new opportunities for the use of helicopter to support and repair wind mill infrastructures.”
In 2017, Airbus Helicopters delivered 409 helicopters compared to 418 in 2016. The company secured its leadership on the civil & parapublic market.
“With a market share of 50% in deliveries (in 2016:47%) – we delivered 260 helicopters on this market out of 520 deliveries globally. We booked 350 gross orders in 2017 (2016:388) and we are very satisfied with the order mix, with record commercial performance for our heavy and super medium helicopters. We expect a stable level of activity on bookings/deliveries in 2018. We are seeing very dynamic markets in areas such as private and business aviation (PBA), emergency medical services (EMS) and new emerging markets such as offshore wind farming where we intend to play a leading role.
“According to our forecasts, we can expect 22,000 [turbine-powered] helicopters to be built worldwide over the
next 20 years for the civil & parapublic market. Even though the Oil & Gas market is still down and in overcapacity, we are seeing encouraging trends in markets such as PBA, EMS or Offshore Wind, and a growing demand from emerging countries,” says the Airbus spokesperson who asked not to be named.
Typically, a commercial helicopter is in the range of 1 to 12 tons maximum takeoff weight and able to carry 2 to 20+ passengers depending on type and size/weight category. It can operate with one or two pilots on board and virtually take off and land every where :airports/helicopters, urban areas, helipad on buildings and skyscrapers and oilrigs,hospitals etc.
Maximum cruise speed for turbine engine helicopters can exceed up to 300 km/h, altitude is around 4000/6000 m on average.
The type of commercial helicopter mostly used according to Leonardo helicopters is very light piston engine helicopters (in terms of number of units) for private use, light single turbine engine, light twins and
greatersize/weight over3-4 ton.
“Big operators using large mixed fleets of aircraft with various types in service canserve various markets in terms of geographies and services. They’re actually global operators, not limited to specific areas. Offshore transport, EMS/SAR are among the main operations carried out under private contracts or supporting governments and national/local agencies”.
Moreover, Leonardo boasts the largest and most modern range of commercial helicopter today available in the global market and covers all main weight categories to perform every mission, everywhere.
All types meet the very latest standards, deliver outstanding performance and capabilities, are provided with large cabins, and offered with comprehensive support, maintenance and training packages through life cycle.
Leonardo is also the only manufacturer with a Family of new generation helicopters (AW139, AW169, AW189)
sharing commonalities across design, components, certification standards, support and training approach allowing levels of efficiency and versatility never seen before in the market. Also, Leonardo is to introduce the first civil-certified tilt rotor in the market uniquely combining turboprop airplane performance (speed,
altitude, range/endurance) and helicopter versatility (vertical take-off and landing,hovering).
Airbus helicopters are fitted with turbine engines that ensure a smoother flight. The power of the engine depends on the size of the helicopter. Airbus civil helicopters are fitted with engines either from Safran
Helicopter Engines or Pratt &Whitney.
“Airbus Helicopters has the largest range of civil and parapublic helicopters from the single-engine H125 and H130 to the eleven-ton H225. Airbus lightweight single engine helicopters, the H125 and H130, are highly cost effective rotorcraft appreciated by pilots for their superior flight qualities, stability and agility, along with excellent reliability and low vibration levels, all with outstanding performance in hot and high operating conditions. The H135 and H145 are best sellers in the EMS segment”.
The key aspect of the helicopter that allows it to fulfill all kinds of commercial air transport operations is versatility, according to Airbus. For example: H125 & H130 are highly cost effective rotorcraft, they offer a turbine-smooth environment and quiet rides, along with unmatched visibility for passengers and open-space
cabins that enhance comfort and facilitate loading/unloading.
Twin engine H135 and H145 have large cabins with flat floors, providing flexibility in seating arrangements and the creating of high-end interiors to satisfy the most discerning travellers. Both rotorcrafts have high-set main and tail rotors for facilitated access, while their compact airframes allow landings and takeoffs from urban areas and city heliports, to super yachts and offshore oil and gas platforms.
In its commercial air transport configuration the H160 can accommodate up to 12 passengers. Its unobstructed large cabin has been specially designed to provide a spacious, comfortable environment and rapid egress capability. The helicopter’s signature Blue Edge blades reduce sound levels by 50% contributing to pilot and passenger comfort but also making the aircraft adapted to flying in urban environments.
Advancements in technology always seem to be of great help to the Commercial Helicopters Market. The
single engine operative (SEO) mode that allows a twin engine helicopter to shut down one of the engines to save fuel in cruise condition, and restart it quickly when necessary, seems to be a fascinating idea.
Bell Helicopters recently unveiled its futuristic concept helicopter, which has an untraditional tail rotor without
horizontal stabilizers. MD Helicopters also unveiled MD 6XX, another concept helicopter, which is publicly announced by MD Helicopters at Heli Expo 2016 and is expected to be into the market between
2019 and 2020.
The 6XX features a GenesysAerosystems IDU-680 cockpit avionics setup, made of glass and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) capability. Incorporation of technologies like these would surely aid the Commercial Helicopters Market in the days to come.
Global military rotorcraft market is expected to grow at CAGR 4.28% to value $30.7 billion by 2028. The cumulative global expenditure on military rotorcraft over the forecast period is estimated at
$271.7 billion. The demand for rotorcraft is expected to be driven by the need to replace aging fleet and enhance capabilities pertaining to disaster relief operations.
Apart from emerging economy in Middle East and South Asian regions, which are witnessing increasing , defense expenditure due to regional power struggles and territorial disputes. However, operators have different needs
depending on fleet size, mission,geographies, market requirements and flight rules. The rotorcraft industry aims at responding to those demands delivering a range of solutions.
In the commercial segment, buoyant demand from the oil and gas industry for offshore transport, coupled with adoption in the various sectors as supporting revenues.
Technology developments in airframe, engine and mission systems that provide more air worthiness , resilience ,
performance and responsiveness are enabling the new generation of helicopters to function in tough
According to Frost and Sullivan, “Civil operators will also look for capabilities to improve territorial surveillance, crime prevention and natural disaster relief. Vertical take-off and landing capabilities are also greatly sought after to overcome geographic and infrastructure constraints.Such capabilities are critical to bolster
operational efficiency, as highlighted during parapublic missions in congested environments and degraded weather conditions.”
Moreover, new analysis from Frost &Sullivan of the global civil helicopter market, finds that the market earned
revenues of 6.22 billion in 2013 with an estimated reach of 9.90 billion in 2023.Asia Pacific, North America, Europe and Latin America expected to be the most attracted market.
Many solutions and equipment allow facing harsh environments, in both coldand hot and high conditions.
In terms of very latest technology: NVG, advanced satellite navigation, synthetic vision, enhanced vision system, collision avoidance and ground proximity warning systems, weather radar, built-in particle separator for engines, icing protection systems to name a few, according to Leonardo Helicopters.
Biggest demand drivers
The overall trend of deliveries in the helicopter market closely follows the price of oil – as offshore oil & gas
operations (OSOG) is one of the biggest demand drivers for the technology, albeit delayed by 1 to 2years.
It is worth noting that after the oil price plummeted in 2014/2015, helicopter deliveries have followed suit. The most pronounced decreases have been seen in the heavy and medium helicopters category, which primarily serve the OSOG market. Deliveries have also been affected by the slowdown in investor confidence.
“The global market has experienced a significant growth and interest in particular in the emergency and rescue
field. As said, due to the growing social relevance of helicopters in both long established and emerging markets
“The capability and flexibility provided by helicopters is still key to a number of operations. Helicopters are fundamental compared to other air and surface assets to perform many kinds of roles. Latest technology is allowing fuel consumption reduction and greater efficiency overall,”notes Leonardo spokesperson.
While almost 50% of fixed wing aircraft fleet are leased to the operator, in the commercial helicopter industry this is closer to 10-20%. IBA observes that the demand for commercial helicopters is expected to be driven by leasing companies buying significant numbers of new and advanced helicopters to renew their fleets to serve the rapid expansion of major helicopter operators.
Over the next decade large manufacturers such as Russian Helicopters and Airbus Helicopters will be continuing
research and development efforts to compete in the highly competitive helicopter market place.
Speed and weight are important factors that affect helicopter performance and dramatically impact operational viability and profitability. The current focus by OEMs is on faster, larger, and ever more reliable helicopters for diverse industry applications and developing economies.
“Helicopters address primary and secondary human needs. Market drivers come from social development, so the
need for public services aircraft to protect populations and emergency medical services to save lives. There are also economic development drivers linked to the energy markets with the need to transport passengers to remote areas,commercial aspects requiring building and infrastructure in remote areas rapidly,and the private and business aviation market,” an Airbus official said.
Helicopters are essential to complete many critical missions that are impossible for fixed-winged aircraft since they can operate around rough terrain and require minimal ground infrastructure. Like many complex environments, human error is though to be a contributing factor for roughly 80% of helicopter accidents.
What does the future hold?
We live in a world where the traditional on – ground and below – ground transportation networks are saturated, so now the focus is on the 3rd dimension to offer new transportation solutions for congested urban environments.
According to Leonardo Helicopters, the market is looking for greater capabilities and safety combined with excellent after sales services and cost/effectiveness. Advanced technologies and sustainable approach will allow helicopters to maintain their unique role for air transport and public services worldwide.
Airbus is developing its own strategy and products for how it envisions the development
of both intra- and intercity transportation in the near and distant future.“Our urban air mobility
strategy begins with on demand helicopter services and we are partnering with several
leaders in this area to develop in multiple markets”. Airbus Helicopters is developing two products under the urban air mobility banner, one for intra-city mobility – CityAirbus and one for inter-city mobility – RACER.
CityAirbus is a disruptive platform concept for on-demand and shared air mobility in urban environment, designed for carrying four persons over short distances with no local emission and minimal noise footprint.
The concept features an innovative architecture based on distributed electric propulsion to radicallyreduce mechanical complexity, operating cost and maintenance effort for this new class of aircraft. The development of CityAirbus is now firmly on track with a first flight of the prototype expected at the end of 2018.
RACER is a high-speed helicopter Research demonstrator currently being developed as part of the Clean Sky 2
European research program, under the leadership of Airbus Helicopters. The demonstrator’s design is optimized for a cruise speed of approximately 400 km/h and aims at validating the best trade-off between safety, cost efficiency, sustainability, public acceptance and environmental performance. The simplicity of the concept is one of the main assets of the aircraft’s new configuration,which combines fixed wings for energy efficient lift, propellers (so called lateral rotors) for energy-efficient propulsion and a main rotor that provides energy efficient VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) flight capabilities. A key feature is the box-wing with pusher propellers
concept, which is key for achieving safety,and environmental performance of RACER demonstration in Clean Sky 2. The demonstrator’s target missions requiring the helicopter’s VTOL capabilities but for which travel time is either of vital importance (Emergency Medical Transport, Search and Rescue) or contributing highly to mission efficiency (intra-city Urban Air Mobility, Passengers transport in the O&G industryetc.).
The RACER demonstrator is a flagship of European Research cooperation with the development of the demonstrator relying on a wide European network of almost 40 partners, industrials, Research Centers,
and SMEs, in 13 EU countries.