During the last few years light Western-built rotorcraft have significantly increased in popularity in Russia. At the same time, in the beginning of 2014 the Russian Helicopters’ order portfolio listed 808 machines at a cost of almost $12 billion. This indicates a stable demand for Russian-made helicopters among the regional operators and foreign providers. However, the increasing production rates of the local players are putting additional pressure on the MRO market.
Due to the steady nature of demand for the Russian-made helicopters, this segment within the aviation industry in the region did not face such massive disruptions as, for example, the segment of aircraft manufacturing. Nevertheless, the manufacturing rates of Russian-built helicopters increased three times during the period from 2004 to 2012. Moreover, the trend remains positive: according to the official data, in the beginning of 2014 there were 808 helicopters at a total cost of almost $12 billion in the portfolio of Russian Helicopters which is a sole Russian rotorcraft manufacturer.
One of the most recent trends in the Russian helicopter fleet development has been a noticeable shift towards light Western-built rotorcraft. The amount of such machines in the region has increased by almost 170% during the last five years. However, the middle and heavy segments are still holding their position. Here, a noticeable part (70%) of operated rotorcraft is still represented by such Russian-built machines as Mi-8 and its different modifications. Moreover, according to the data of the HIS Trade Balance 2014 survey, a strong position of the Russian holding is also connected with the increase in the amount of exported Mi-8/17 series military helicopters.
Currently, the manufacturer is working on the development of such promising next-gen helicopter models as Mi-38, Ansat and Rachel. However, according to the CEO of Helisota, an authorized Mil Helicopters service centre, such current generation rotorcraft as Mi-8/Mi-17 and their various modifications will remain popular in the country and various regions across the world for at least another 30 years. Nevertheless, a steady popularity of such products may lead to significant challenges in terms of the adequate MRO support.
“Despite the fact that more and more operators tend to invest into newer and more cost-efficient machines, the sales of the current generation rotorcraft models remain steadily high in Russia and in certain parts of the world. For instance, there are currently about 600 of Mi-8/17 type machines operated in Africa. The fleet of these helicopters in Latin America has also reached an impressive number of 400 aircraft. In these continents such machines have almost no alternatives, primarily due to the tough climatic conditions. At the same time, only 2 800 out of more than 12 000 of the helicopters produced in Russia are operated outside the CIS. Naturally, the region holds the most developed network for the appropriate MRO support,” comments Anatolij Legenzov, the CEO of Helisota. “Nevertheless, as the popularity of these and other Soviet/Russian origin products remains high globally, the demand for respective maintenance solutions continues to be high.”
Considering the fact that Russian Helicopters is planning to account for 20% of the global helicopter market by 2020, building an appropriate MRO infrastructure to support its products worldwide is a top priority. “Currently some progress is already noticeable with regard to solving the issue. For instance, Russia has been developing partnerships with other countries which operate substantial fleets of the country-made rotorcraft and seeking to develop the necessary MRO capabilities in their territories. However, such processes require time. In the meantime, cooperation with an experienced and certified third-party MRO provider is of paramount importance for the operators in need of maintaining the appropriate level of safety,” says Anatolij Legenzov.