Year 2015 was without a doubt a roller coaster ride for the rotorcraft industry. Despite the added turbulence, though, the demand in the market remained steady. According to Honeywell, up to 5250 new machines are forecasted to hit the market in the upcoming 4 years. The majority (53%) of these helicopters will supplement the Western Hemisphere, where the increasing number of aircraft is putting immense pressure on MROs.
Operators in Latin and North Americas continue to lead the global purchase plans and expect to increase their helicopter use by 45% and 27%, respectively. However, what burdens the life of MROs working in the area is the diversity of the market. Different manufacturers are constantly expanding their product portfolios in the region and continue to see great potential in both markets, thus challenging local maintenance facilities to keep up with the diversification.
“It’s a constant battle and there’s never going to be a winner. Independent MROs are left to scan and analyse the market in search of opportunities that OEMs may not see or are unable to handle,” says Anatolij Legenzov, the CEO of Helisota. “For instance, Airbus Helicopters and Bell Helicopters have more than 60 years of experience working in South America. And yet, the region is not a number one priority for Bell Helicopters as it represents only 13% of the total bookings for this European manufacturer. Therefore, it comes to no surprise that the focus on these particular markets is not as intense as stated and there are still certain unaddressed needs and demands in the region.”
When the market is as diverse as it gets, operators tend to seek different options with regard to maintaining the airworthiness of theirs fleet with the aim to facilitate smoother maintenance processes. While the aforementioned manufacturers manage multiple support bases throughout the New World, other manufacturers including Russian Helicopters with more than 400 units flying in the region and AugustaWestland with a fleet of over 200 helicopters are growing their helicopter numbers without strong maintenance support network.
On top of that, Russian-produced rotorcraft are the frontrunners in the segment of commercial helicopters with the maximum take-off weight of 10-12 tons, accounting for 77% of the regional fleet. Moreover, they account for up to 42% of all military helicopters across Latin America. “Inevitably, due to their universal use, Russian-built machines will conquer an even bigger part of the regional market meaning that the know-how of their maintenance and a developed spare parts supply network will be a highly valued asset of any maintenance facility.”
Naturally, every brand and manufacturer is on the hunt for a bigger market share and it is clearly making life for MROs in the region more complex. Trying to increase the availability of technical support services, Russian Helicopters, AugustaWestland and several other players are planning technical support bases for their production. “Nevertheless, in such environment customers always seek flexibility – services that can be tailor-made for each and every specific need, despite the make or origin. And when they manage to build a strong relationship with partner holding vast experience as well as strong in-house capabilities, operators of the Americas tend to hold on to that.”