Helicopter shipments up for Q1


Helicopter shipments are back up for the first quarter of 2018 after last year’s deliveries slump.

The number of helicopters sent for delivery so far this year is the highest since 2014, reaching 219 total shipments. This is a 17.1% increase compared to the same period last year, when only 187 helicopters shipped from manufacturers.

This increase is due in large to the uptake in piston-rotorcraft deliveries, which saw in impressive 39.7% uptick over Q1 2017, with 81 units being shipped. But the growth was not just confined to piston deliveries, with 138 turbine aircraft being shipped so far in 2018, representing a 7% increase from last year’s 129.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) cites the rise in demand for training helicopters driving the number of piston deliveries up, coupled with a stabilising used-helicopter market and economic growth in key global markets.

GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce said: “We are pleased to see the industry is, overall, trending positively. Training needs are driving the demands in the rotorcraft segment, while a stabilising used market, overall global economic growth and aviation innovation are driving the other segment increases. We expect the introduction of new products to drive future growth.

Total billings in the rotorcraft segment totalled $0.67 billion, up 18% year-on-year from $0.57 billion netted in the first quarter last year.

Trending lower

This data reinforces the trend of overall market growth but an increasing demand for smaller, less-expensive helicopters.

The face of the light-piston helicopter market is Robinson. Coming off the back of successful 2017 when, in the year as a whole, the company produced 305 helicopters, 174 of which were the R44 single-piston helicopter, Robinson delivered by far the most helicopters, shipping 88 units in this year’s first quarter. One of the most common roles for the R44 and R66 is for flight and maintenance training.

Bell this year reported almost double the number of commercial helicopter deliveries in the first quarter of 2018, but generated lower revenues due to the type of aircraft it was selling. The manufacturer delivered 46 commercial helicopters in the first quarter of 2018 compared to 27 year-on-year in 2017 but the volume increase was not reflected in the lower but unspecified commercial revenues.

Airbus Helicopter’s revenues dropped 18% in Q1 2018, down to Eu961 million from Eu1.17 billion netted in the same period of 2017. However, Airbuss’ helicopter deliveries fell overall in the first quarter to 49 units. Airbus’s most-popular aircraft were the light twin-engined H125, which shipped 24 units and the H145 light-utility helicopter which shipped 11.

Leonardo saw a pretty even spread of aircraft types shipped, but an overall drop off in civil aircraft deliveries in the first quarter – with its most-shipped aircraft being the medium AW139 which remains one of the go-to medium-class helicopters.

However, Leonard’s overall deliveries increased year-on-year for the first quarter of 2018 due to increasing non-civil helicopter deliveries. This resulted in increase in overall revenue for the quarter, reaching €750 million for the helicopter segment. The manufacturers’ helicopter billings were valued at $269.7 million, the highest value of all the top-five manufactures.