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rate globally, with 15 percent of respondents planning to add new
helicopters, with purchase plans in this market being five percentage
points higher than the 2018 survey.
For the rest of the world, however, purchase plans were down. In
the Asia-Pacific region, for example, purchase plans were down five
percentage points on last year. Almost 13 percent of respondents
said they plan to replace or expand their fleet with a new helicop-
ter over the next five years, with light single-engine and medium
twin-engine helicopters proving the most popular. New helicopter
plans are stable for China, showing that around 21 percent of the
fleet would be replaced or expanded. Purchase plans were up by 10
percentage points in India, meanwhile.
For the Asia-Pacific rotary market, 2018 was an “interesting year ”,
according to Jeffrey Lowe, managing director, Asian Sky Group
(ASG). Its Asian Sky Fleet Report for 2018 highlights the changing
dynamics in the region’s rotary market. The Asia-Pacific market grew
by 4.7 percent in 2018 compared with 2017 — higher than the 3.8
percent growth from 2016 to 2017, according to ASG. By the end of
2018, the region’s active helicopter fleet stood at 4,268, compared
with 4,078 in 2017. The year saw 150 new deliveries to the region, 152
pre-owned additions and 112 deductions, with 50 of these deduc-
tions being helicopters that were 20-plus years old. “2018 witnessed
more new deliveries and pre-owned additions, as well as lower
deductions compared with 2017,” says the report.
ASG expects the growth to continue. “ There has been growth since
2017 and this is expected to continue until year-end 2019,” it says.
Australia remains the region’s largest market, with 856 helicopters,
but its fleet only grew 3 percent in 2018. Mainland China, mean-
while, added 82 helicopters making a total of 667 helicopters and a
14 percent growth rate — albeit slightly slower compared with the
previous year when 88 helicopters joined the fleet. That growth put
Mainland China in second position in terms of market size, pushing
Japan down to third after its helicopter fleet increased by just 1.4
percent. The only country in the region which saw a reduction in
its helicopter fleet was India, with a 1 percent drop.
Single-engine helicopter types continue to account for the bulk of
the fleet at 2,229 or 52 percent, followed by medium types at 1,285
(30 percent), light twins at 511 (12 percent), heavy types at 224 (5
percent) and 19 super mediums (1 percent).
As well as being the region’s largest market, Australia is also its
most mature. The Australian fleet has increased by 28 helicopters
since year-end 2017 — up 3.4 percent — with 15 new deliveries, 49
pre-owned additions and 36 reductions. The Australian fleet is one
of the region’s oldest, with an average age of 25 years, which could
bode well for manufacturers and lessors in the years ahead. As ASG
notes: “ The country ’s turbine helicopter fleet, though increasing
year-on-year, will have to address its ageing fleet and replace the
ageing helicopters soon to ensure safety and operational feasibility.”
Greater China added 89 helicopters in 2018 (14.1 percent growth),
comprising 72 new deliveries, 30 pre-owned additions and 13 deduc-
tions. Mainland China was the driver for growth, says ASG, thanks
to “an abundance of government support for general aviation”. The
report adds: “ With a relatively young helicopter fleet average — av-
erage age of 11.1 years — and an expected continued positive heli-
copter fleet growth rate, Greater China is one of the most promising
helicopter markets in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The region’s third-largest helicopter market, Japan, saw its civil
turbine fleet grow by nine helicopters (1.4 percent growth) with 26
new deliveries, five pre-owned additions and 22 deductions, pushing
the fleet total to 649. Japan has the region’s largest fleet dedicated
to EMS at 91 helicopters (33 percent of the region’s EMS fleet).
The New Zealand market — the fourth-largest market– achieved
6.5 percent growth, with 31 helicopters joining the fleet, comprising
10 new deliveries, 43 pre-owned and 22 deductions. Like Australia,
New Zealand faces an ageing fleet issue, with the average age
being 27.8 years.
More than half of the region’s fleet — 53 percent — is used for
multi-mission operations, with other mission segments evenly
represented — corporate (9 percent), offshore (8 percent), law en-
forcement (97 percent), search and rescue (97 percent) and EMS (6
percent) — a factor which has helped operators, lessors and OEMs
weather the fallout from the downturn in the oil and gas market.
Last year the EMS market in the region grew by 13 percent com-
pared with 2017, with the EMS fleet in Mainland China alone almost
tripling in size since 2016. ASG warns, however, that further growth
in this sector could be impacted by numerous challenges, including
the large investment costs required to increase and maintain a fleet;
a lack of experienced personnel; and maintaining a sustainable
For offshore operators, meanwhile, offshore wind farms present
an increasing opportunity, says ASG, with the Asia-Pacific offshore
wind capacity expected to rise 20-fold within the next decade.
Mainland China has been active in this market, with others following.
“A growth in the offshore wind farms could dramatically boost the
number of offshore helicopters used by Asia-Pacific operators,” ASG
predicts. Although the offshore oil and gas business saw improve-
ments last year and the recovery is expected to continue into 2020,
operators are being cautious.
Airbus continues to be the major player in the Asia-Pacific mar-
ket, with 1,814 helicopters in operation (43 percent share), followed
by Bell with 1,158 (27 percent) and Leonardo with 445 (10 percent).
Milestone Aviation has the largest leased fleet in the region at 70
aircraft, followed by Waypoint Leasing (27) and Airwork (23), with
the majority of the region’s leased fleet (69 helicopters) operating
in Australia. The bulk of the region’s leased fleet (34.5 percent)
are Airbus types.
Resilience and product diversity appear to be crucial ingredients
for success in what continues to be a challenging rotary environment
with small shoots of recovery appearing.
◀ Emergency medical services in the Asia-Pacific region are one
area of growth for the helicopter industry.
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