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Fri, Jan 21, 2005

Eurocopter Continues To Dominate Civil Helicopter Marketplace

Although Forecast1 Says Market Will Be Flat For Next Decade

Although civil helicopter deliveries began rising in 2003 and registered further gains in 2004, this market will remain relatively flat during the next 10 years, according to Forecast International's "World Commercial Rotorcraft Market." Current shipments are receiving a major boost from the piston-powered Robinson Helicopter models, the two-seat R22 and the four-place R44. It should be noted, though, that annual output, which totaled just under 1,250 shipments in 2004, will fall off gradually through 2011 before rising to about 1,000 deliveries in 2013.

"Eurocopter continues its strong dominance of the turbine-powered helicopter segment, a trend expected to continue beyond the 10-year forecast period," said the report’s author, Bill Dane. He added, "The consortium is expected to account for about 30 percent of the revenues market, nearly twice the share of its closest competitor."

Bell Helicopter’s long-awaited strategic plans are finally coming into focus. The company is developing a Modular Affordable Product Line (MAPL) of light singles and twins spanning the five- to eight-seat-capacity range. Very few technical details have been disclosed; Bell hopes to have three new models in production by the end of this decade in a bid to reassert its market presence. Bell has also launched an IFR-capable 427i model with partners Korea Aerospace and Mitsui Bussan. The current VFR-only 427 has not sold well against the competing MD Explorer, A109 Power, and EC 135 types.

With its Italian partner Agusta, Bell plans to obtain FAA certification of its BA609 tiltrotor (below) in late 2007. The Italo-American team shipped its first AB139 a year ago and announced that a second assembly line would begin delivering aircraft from a Texas site in 2006. MD Helicopter claims to have resolved problems with delayed shipments from its suppliers, and by 2008 it is expected to make double the number of deliveries made in 2004.

Sikorsky has acquired Schweizer, which will provide it with a ready-made, if rather limited, access to the lower end of the rotary-wing market. In the near term it appears Sikorsky was more motivated by the opportunities for entering the UAV and homeland security markets through the acquisition, but over the long term it would be reasonable to expect collaboration on derivatives and larger follow-on designs of Schweizer’s current piston and turbine models. This acquisition follows the recent establishment of the Shanghai Sikorsky joint venture in China, which will involve local assembly of Schweizer 300 and 333 model helicopters.

Taiwan’s Aero Industry Development Corp. (AIDC) has proposed a link-up with Enstrom Helicopter, a development that could ultimately see the government of Taiwan taking a stake in the US company. AIDC has reportedly identified Enstrom as a potential acquisition target and sees the production of light helicopters as a possible new business opportunity. This is by no means a done deal, however, and many analysts question whether AIDC could raise the capital needed to purchase all or a substantial part of Enstrom.

"While the overall annual deliveries will decline over the next 10 years, we would point out that shipments of turbine-powered helicopters, at 567 in 2004, will rise to 615-620 per year in the 2008-2010 timeframe before falling off to 580-590 annual deliveries in 2012-13," Dane said. The near-term spike is due in no small part to the order backlogs of a number of recently announced new models; manufacturers have been working to reduce this backlog during the past two years.

For the 2005-2014 forecast period, Forecast International is projecting shipments of approximately 10,500 commercial rotary-wing aircraft, valued at just under $20.25 billion.

FMI: www.forecast1.com

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