Helicopter makers are scrambling for new sources of demand after being hit by a severe downturn in their biggest non-military clientele – oil and gas producers. One promising area is public emergency services, executives said at the Singapore Airshow.
The oil and gas industry, which uses helicopters to shuttle their crew to offshore sites, accounted last year for as much as 40 percent of the roughly $6 billion annual sales of helicopters for civil use, according to aerospace research firm Teal Group.
Its decline has pushed manufacturers such as Airbus Helicopters, the world’s largest maker of commercial helicopters, to emphasize alternative segments. They are focusing now on demand from Emergency Medical Services (EMS), law enforcement, Search and Rescue (SAR) and firefighting.
“In the region, there are all in all only 19 (EMS) helicopters. This is one of the segments that we want to develop,” Philippe Monteux, Airbus Helicopters’ head of Southeast Asia and Pacific region, told Reuters.
Airbus Helicopters saw a 20 percent decline in civil orders last year. Patrick Moulay, vice president of global sales at Textron subsidiary Bell Helicopter, said the emergency services sector was promising, especially in the Asia Pacific region where old fleets need to be replaced.
“We signed with the Indonesian police for two 429s. The Indonesian police have a fleet of about 30 aircraft to replace, which are more than 30 years old,” Moulay said.