Having grown 3.5 times since 2004, rotorcraft industry is one of the few ones in Russia to show steady development rates. However, while this growth still relies heavily on sales of military products, the global demand seems to be taking a shift towards more commercial helicopter utilization. As a result, in order to remain relevant Russia needs to develop more commercially attractive products, as well as ensure appropriate support for the current ones.
Products of Russian Helicopters, a sole rotorcraft manufacturer in Russia, currently accounts for over 14% of the global market share. Today over 8 500 of its machines are operated in over 100 countries, including Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the CIS. However, the recent trends within the industry might bring about certain challenges that need to be addressed with maximum caution.
“It is forecasted that over $60.3 billion worth commercial rotorcraft will be manufactured by 2022 globally. Honeywell expects up to 28% of this demand to come from Europe and the CIS, driven by a global increase in demand for helicopter use in various growing sectors of the global economy,” shares Anatolij Legenzov, the CEO of Helisota. “For instance, the recent years have seen a stronger dependency on helicopters for the use in oil and gas operations, emergency medical services, law enforcement and public safety, as well as corporate and private air travel.”
Recently more and more experts and industry players have been noticing the shift. For instance, Sikorsky has been experiencing a drop in sales of its Black Hawks and Seahawks for some time now after over a decade of steadily increasing production rates. At the same time, currently over two thirds of overall fleet of its S-92s are operated in commercial segments.
In the meantime, the growth of Russian Helicopters still relies mainly on military products, as well as medium and heavy-lift machines. In 2013 the manufacturer has produced over 35% of military rotorcraft and 87% of heavy-lift helicopters globally. Here, a noticeable part of operated rotorcraft is still represented by such machines as Mi-8/17 and its different modifications. However, the capabilities of these products are often excessive for commercial use.
As a result, operators in Russia and the CIS are increasingly filling the gap with Western-built rotorcraft. In the beginning of 2014 the overall number of foreign helicopters in the region reached about 590 units, which is almost twice as much as in 2009.
“Of course, despite the advantages of lighter models in a set of relevant operations, heavy-lift helicopters are yet to demonstrate their indispensability in offshore operations and difficult weather conditions. Nevertheless, considering the fact that Western manufacturers are renewing their portfolios with regard to new products in this category, ensuring a place for competitive products in the market should become a top priority for the local manufacturer. And then there’s also the need for replacement of a huge Soviet-era rotorcraft fleet within the region to keep in mind,” comments the CEO of Helisota.
According to the executive, development and manufacturing of new products is only a part of the answer. Considering the fact that a large share of the Russian-made products is still operated mostly within post-Soviet countries, development of the relevant maintenance support network worldwide is an important step in ensuring further expansion. “Here cooperation with an experienced and certified third-party MRO provider is of paramount importance in the quest of maintaining the appropriate level of air safety as well as ensuring a place in the future of the industry,” concludes the CEO of Helisota.