Growth slows in Asia-Pacific helicopter market.


Following four years of substantial helicopter fleet growth in Asia, expansion the growth rate halved in 2019.  That is according to Asian Sky Group’s (ASG) year-end fleet report. Year-on-year, fleet expansion fell from a steady 4-5% average growth year-on-year to 2% in 2019.

Asia has been a key growth market for the helicopter industry for the past five years, led by several large orders from multi-mission operators in China. Bell has seen most traction here, including Shaanxi Helicopter’s placing an order for 100 Bell 407GXPs and Reignwood International committing to take up to 110 Bell 505 Jet Ranger Xs in the past few years.

But China ended up taking delivery of only half of the number of new helicopters last year compared to 2018, falling from 89 in 2018 to 45 in 2019. ASG sees this slowdown as temporary – Jeff Lowe, Managing Director of Asian Sky Group told Helicopter Investor:

“Slowing demand in Asia compared with previous years is temporary and is driven primarily by the Chinese slow-down. Fleet growth is still positive, and I don’t see much reason to be wary — the potential is still there.”

Another factor that stifled growth in 2019 was the relocation of several unused heavy oil-and-gas helicopters out of Australia. Even with new deliveries, the total number of helicopters in Australia by the end of 2019 remained unchanged year-on-year from 2018.

‘Another challenging year’

Lowe said: “Last year saw challenging market conditions manifest themselves with yet another downturn in the O&G market, an overabundance of heavy helicopters and an increasingly competitive market space in Asia that many in the industry believe will require further consolidation if the industry is to sustain itself in the future.

“2019 marked another challenging year for the rotary industry in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Aside from these factors, several countries also moved more helicopters than they took delivery of in 2019. Malaysia ended 2018 with a fleet of 161 helicopters but by 2019 it was 153; India lost a net total of two helicopters in 2019; and Papua New Guinea lost 14.

The slowdown is expected to continue for at least another year, with fleet growth in 2020 predicted to flag to 1.5%, according to ASG estimations.

By the numbers

At the end of 2019, there were a total of 4,373 helicopters in the Asia Pacific market, here is the breakdown of helicopter fleets by country:

CountryFleet in 2018Fleet in 2019
Mainland China678719
New Zealand518539
South Korea229233
Hong Kong1923
Sri Lanka910

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