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Skies Could Be Getting Brighter for the Helicopter Market

March 7, 2011

As the Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo unfolds in Orlando, FL, this week, at least one industry expert believes sales of rotor-wing aircraft are about to see an up-tick.

“The trough for helicopter deliveries will be this year,” said Brian Foley, an aviation analyst based in Sparta, NJ. “We think that the orders are starting to come in now. The pipeline will fill up nicely and we’ll be in good shape next year – particularly on the delivery front.”

But Foley will be the first to tell you it’s not quite that simple.

For instance, there are recent indications from the Pentagon that military budgets may be curtailed in the years to come. Still, Foley predicted, helicopter manufacturers like Bell and Sikorsky won’t be decimated by those cuts.

“The corporate customer is starting to come back. The stock market is improving. Corporate profits are improving. So almost on cue, as there’s some uncertainty in the military market now, the civilian market is starting to come alive.”

Foley predicted the buzz at this year’s Heli-Expo will be about a surge in orders to manufacturers. “We’re sure that at HAI we’ll be hearing a lot of talk about that,” he said.

What about emerging markets like China and India? Foley also sees a lot of potential there. “We think the helicopter market will be on the leading edge,” Foley said.

The reason? “There’s not a lot of infrastructure to accommodate fixed-wing general aviation aircraft” in those markets,” he reported. “As a result, there should be some nice construction ahead of that wave and what better machine to handle that than the helicopter?”

But, Foley said, even though predictions are for double – even triple-digit growth in helicopter sales for Asia – it’s important to keep such predictions in perspective. After all, there aren’t that many aircraft in the region to begin with. “Twice five is only ten,” Foley said.