The industry witnessed unprecedented growth in the global sales of civil rotorcraft from 2004 through 2008. However, as 2008 ended, the economic slowdown saw rotorcraft utilization and new orders decrease significantly and financing became increasingly difficult.
The worldwide fleet growth declined from double digits in 2007 to 7 percent in 2008, and finally to 5.7 percent in 2009, and lower demand and production levels are expected to persist into late 2011 and 2012. The financial crisis had an uneven impact on each geographic region. Rotorcraft operator growth in regions with higher GDP was less affected by the financial crisis than those with a lower GDP. The worst of the global financial crisis appears to be ending, giving way to fresh optimism.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (aerospace.frost.com), World Commercial Helicopter Market, finds that the market is expected to grow from 24,625 helicopters in 2009 to 36,946 helicopters in 2015.
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"The markets in the United States felt the heat more than those in Western Europe and Asia, which had remained comparatively stable," says Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Nathan K. Smith. "Over the next five years, it is estimated that up to 22 percent of total world new rotorcraft sales will be to customers in Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East."
Rotorcraft financing remains a deterrent to new purchases, but this is easing as the economy moves in a positive direction. Factors such as government regulation, tight lending standards, stricter evaluations of applicant, and the proliferation of interest rates have made it increasingly difficult to secure loans.
There is a major shortage of qualified pilots available in a field that is slated to grow as much as 60 percent in the next ten years. Most of the existing professionals are retiring and there is short supply of pilots from the military. With a booming oil industry, offshore companies are facing a near critical shortage of rotorcraft pilots, which has led to an increase in demand for them. The lack of qualified rotorcraft maintenance technicians is further complicating matters.
Aside from this, difficulties exist in obtaining rotorcraft parts and components, and locating these can become a time-consuming process. The inability to meet the demand for certain spare parts has impeded maintenance programs.
With competition on the rise, industry participants are intensifying the focus on innovation and technology to obtain the cutting edge. Manufacturers are rolling out a diverse array of rotorcraft to meet customer demands.
"Safety, efficiency and the environment continue to be top priorities in the rotorcraft domain," says Smith. "Increased speed and reduced noise are also vital aspects to be considered in the development of rotorcraft in the future."
In the new product lines, participants are introducing safety-enhancing technologies, including new methods of health and usage monitoring, improved situational awareness tools, workload-reducing automatic flight control systems, and maintenance-saving vibration reduction packages. Manufacturers such as AgustaWestland are also investing in advanced technologies as product differentiators. A key goal has been to develop technologies for providing jet-like smoothness in helicopters with active vibration control of structural response.
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World Commercial Helicopter Market / N7B6