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Report reveals slow growth in Asian rotary fleet
Helicopter fleet growth is slowing down in the Asia Pacific region according to ASG's 2019 report. This is mainly due to there being more deductions than before, but there are bright spots amid the figures.

Hong Kong-headquartered business aviation consulting firm Asian Sky Group (ASG), along with Asian Sky Media, has released its seventh annual Asia Pacific Civil Helicopter Fleet Report. The 2019 report features a detailed breakdown of the fleet by fleet size, replacement cost, mission segments, size categories and OEM. It includes updated market data and analysis on offshore oil and gas operators, reflecting the continued impact of the oil and gas downturn on the industry; on the helicopter leasing market, showcasing the leased fleet by lessor and operator; and on the growing emergency medical services (EMS) market.

With growing interest in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and urban air mobility (UAM), this year's report covers emerging technologies in Asia. These special features are courtesy of the Vertical Flight Society, sharing the latest eVTOL news in Asia, and law firm HFW discussing the challenges and prospects of UAM in the region.

Several companies also share insights on the market and the latest trends in their respective industry segments. Lease Corporation International (LCI) speaks on the latest developments from the lessor and why the leasing sector is growing. Jet Support Services (JSSI) breaks down the maintenance support it offers, along with its financial solutions. Designer and developer of air ambulance medical interiors Spectrum Aeromed shares an update on its Life Flight Network, and Safran Helicopter Engines discusses the company's Aneto-1K engine fitted on the Leonardo AW189K.

The Asia-Pacific civil turbine helicopter fleet stood at 4,373 units at the end of 2019, a year-on-year (yoy) growth rate of two per cent from the 4,289 units at the end of 2018. The region has witnessed a compounded yoy growth of four per cent over the past five years, with an addition of nearly 800 units since 2014. Fleet growth is expected to continue in 2020, although slightly less with a forecasted one and a half per cent yoy growth.

Growth slowed in 2019 as the fleet experienced a significant increase in the number of deductions from 2018. This reflects a maturing market in the region. Notably, mainland China's fleet growth rate slowed in 2019. After experiencing 10 per cent yoy growth in 2018, it slowed to six per cent yoy net growth (41 helicopters). This is the first year since 2009 that this market's growth has fallen to a single digit percentage.

Overall, the region saw 84 net additions made up of 121 new deliveries and 115 pre-owned additions, offset by 152 deductions. Fewer new and pre-owned deliveries were made into the region in 2019, which also witnessed a higher number of deductions compared with 2018.

By the year end, more than half (53 per cent) of the fleet was utilised for multi-mission purposes. The remaining fleet was dispersed among corporate (eight per cent), law enforcement (eight per cent), charter (eight per cent), offshore (seven per cent), EMS (six percent), SAR (six per cent), private (two per cent) and training (one per cent) mission segments. Helicopters used for charter purposes saw the greatest number of additions in 2019 with 26 more, a trend that continued from 2018. Charter operators not only act as a ferry service for passengers but also work in the tourism segment offering scenic tours and luxury VIP experiences. The biggest addition of charter aircraft was in Australia and New Zealand where tourism activities are popular. The largest reduction was seen in the offshore oil and gas segment with 20 fleet deductions, continuing the decline of previous years.

Airbus, Bell and Leonardo remain the top three OEMs in the Asia-Pacific regions with 42 per cent, 27 per cent and 11 per cent market shares respectively. Leonardo performed best in terms of net additions, with an increase of 34 units compared with 2018. Sikorsky saw the most net deductions, with 13.

Single and medium helicopters continue to dominate the market in 2019 with 52 per cent and 24 per cent market shares respectively.

“2019 marked yet another challenging year for the rotary industry in the Asia-Pacific region which seems to be a recurring theme, with operators, lessors and service providers being asked annually how they are 'dealing' with the current market conditions,” says ASG managing director Jeffrey Lowe. “While the fleet witnessed growth, the rate was much less than in recent years as this year saw more deductions than before. Still, all is not grim, and you'll see that illustrated throughout this report.”