Experts indicate that the global helicopter market is on a firm recovery from a major downfall in 2008-2010 and should increase by over 40% during the following 8-9 years. Meanwhile, with governments to continue scrutinizing their spending on defence the market is observing a noticeable shift from military to civil helicopters. The latter are projected to become the main source of demand for manufacturers as early as by 2020. However, the development of the civil helimarket, particularly in such emerging markets as the CIS, is to face the same obstacle that airplane operators have been struggling with for almost a decade – pilot shortage.
“The post-Soviet market has a well-established helicopter manufacturing industry. However, it mainly focuses on military, cargo, rescue and similar operations. Moreover, many of those helicopters which are currently used in the non-military segment were manufactured decades ago, meaning that the fleet is now steadily approaching the age of retirement. This situation leaves a promising niche for foreign, mainly Western, manufacturers which have been increasing the deliveries of light and medium-sized rotorcraft to the CIS region for several years now,” commented the situation Skaiste Knyzaite, the CEO of AviationCV.com.
Starting from 2003 foreign aircraft remain as the main source of additional civil helicopters in Russia. In 2008 Russian market players ordered almost 140 foreign helicopters, while only approx. 85 were manufactured in Russia/Ex-Soviet Union. Today the market has almost recovered as over 120 of foreign aircraft (mainly Robinson, Eurocopter, Bell and AgustaWestland) were delivered to Russian operators in 2012.
The market trends in other countries of the region are similar to the one observed in Russia. For instance, five years ago the Ukrainian market was mostly dominated by Soviet/Russian built aircraft (almost 90% of the market). Since then the ratio has significantly changed. In 2012 there were over 200 helicopters operating in the country, approx. 110 of which were manufactured in Russia/USSR, over 80 – by foreign OEMs, and a dozen – by Ukrainian manufacturers. The figures clearly indicate a shift in the local civil helicopter market towards Western-built choppers.
While the Soviet-era helicopters will keep retiring, the niche will be mainly filled by foreign machines, and that is the initial reason for potential HR shortage in the CIS region. The absolute majority of local pilots and technical personnel have an extensive experience in operating and servicing non-Western helicopters. For many of them the process of re-qualifying to Western helicopter will certainly be an issue. Such pilots will require additional time and financial resources as Western helicopters have absolutely different technical “philosophy”. The situation is further burdened by the dramatic lack of appropriate training organizations to offer both theoretical and practical training on the Western types of helicopters in the region.
The civil helicopter market in the entire CIS region, including Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, is still in the stage of its development. However, by the end of the decade local players should already find themselves faced with the same problem as the one that the airplane industry has been dealing with for several years now - the lack of qualified personnel. Luckily, the region might still has several extra years to prepare itself against the upcoming severe shortage. Such helicopters as AS350, Bell 206, Robinson 44 and Robinson 66 are following the success in the global market and becoming increasingly popular in the civil aviation market of the CIS. This provides local operators with a possibility to source some experienced pilots and engineers from the neighbouring regions, particularly Europe, which is yet to fully recover from the recent economic crisis.
“We see that many pilots are ready to move to the CIS for short and middle-term contracts as today the region offers more and more job opportunities while remaining much closer to the Western culture than the spurring Asian countries. Moreover, foreign pilots might not only support local air transport industry until it nurtures a higher number of own specialists, but also share their practical experience and knowledge as instructors. In any case, the CIS region, shifting towards both civil and Western-built helicopter market, should act immediately in order to minimize the potential constraints of the upcoming HR shortage,” concluded the CEO of AviationCV.com