For the ro­tary-wing fleet in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, the fu­ture ap­pears to be promis­ing as de­spite the un­cer­tain­ties and im­ped­i­ments, de­mand for he­li­copters in the re­gion ap­pears set to grow

SP's Airbuz - - Ta­ble Of Con­tents - BY B. K. PANDEY

For the ro­tary-wing fleet in the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion, the fu­ture ap­pears to be promis­ing as de­spite the un­cer­tain­ties and im­ped­i­ments, de­mand for he­li­copters in the re­gion ap­pears set to grow.

THE EAR­LI­EST REF­ER­ENCE TO a de­vice ca­pa­ble of ver­ti­cal flight can be traced as far back in time as 400 BC when chil­dren in China played with wooden toys that had a spin­ning ro­tor that gen­er­ated lift and en­abled the toy to rise ver­ti­cally and re­mained air­borne till the en­ergy im­parted to the ro­tor me­chan­i­cally ran out. How­ever, it was only af­ter the his­toric flight in 1903 in the United States by the Wright Broth­ers that the de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers in­volved in the field of aero­nau­tics which was still in a rather prim­i­tive stage, turned their at­ten­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of ro­tary-wing fly­ing ma­chines. It was dur­ing the pe­riod of five decades af­ter this his­toric achieve­ment by the Wright Broth­ers in the regime of fixed­wing heav­ier-than-air fly­ing ma­chine that there were sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment in the regime of ro­tary-wing plat­forms. The first real op­er­a­tional he­li­copter de­signed and built in Ger­many was by Dok­tor Hein­rich Karl Jo­hann Focke and was called the Fock­eWulf Fw 61 that un­der­took its maiden flight on June 26, 1936. The flight lasted for a mere 28 sec­onds. Sev­eral de­signs of ro­tary-wing plat­forms were de­vel­oped there­after, but were pro­duced only in lim­ited num­bers. It was only in 1942 that a he­li­copter called the R-4 that was de­signed by Igor Siko­rsky in the US and reached fullscale pro­duc­tion with 131 air­craft built.

Ini­tially, he­li­copters that went into pro­duc­tion were built for use by the mil­i­tary as that was where the re­quire­ment was of a scale that jus­ti­fied heavy in­vest­ments in set­ting up elab­o­rate pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties. How­ever, the he­li­copters built for the mil­i­tary were also ac­quired by agen­cies, gov­ern­ments or even in­di­vid­u­als, for civil­ian or com­mer­cial em­ploy­ment. Of course, these ma­chines were ex­pen­sive and had com­plex tech­nolo­gies be­cause of which these were more dif­fi­cult to main­tain and op­er­ate.

Over the last eight decades, he­li­copters have been em­ployed in very large num­bers in civil and com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions all over the world. The num­ber of plat­forms in civil­ian use how­ever are still much smaller than that in the mil­i­tary regime. Lead­ing the fleet of non-mil­i­tary he­li­copters de­ployed for com­mer­cial use was the Siko­rsky S-51. How­ever, the ro­tary-wing plat­form that was most widely used in civil­ian ap­pli­ca­tions was the Bell 47 light util­ity he­li­copter which was em­ployed for the trans­porta­tion of per­son­nel, sur­vey and com­mer­cial ob­ser­va­tion. Other tasks for which he­li­copters were and con­tinue to be em­ployed in­clude traf­fic mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol, law en­force­ment, me­dia cov­er­age, ae­rial film­ing, sur­vey, mon­i­tor­ing of oil and power lines, fight­ing fires over forests and built-up ar­eas, lo­gis­tic sup­port to oil rigs, emer­gency med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion and ser­vices, res­cue of per­son­nel from high-rise build­ings in the event of fire, crop spray­ing, ranch and cat­tle man­age­ment. THE ASIA-PA­CIFIC HE­LI­COPTER FLEET TO­DAY. In its lit­tle over 80 years of ex­is­tence, the he­li­copter fleet has come a long way in­deed. Although, the ini­tial de­vel­op­ment of he­li­copters and ex­pan­sion of fleets were largely con­fined to Europe and the US, the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion has not been left be­hind in the race. The he­li­copter fleet in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion has sus­tained a steady rate of growth. In terms of tech­nol­ogy, the orig­i­nally de­vel­oped plat­forms pow­ered by pis­ton en­gines have largely been or are be­ing re­placed by the newer plat­forms that are fit­ted with tur­bine en­gines. This trend will con­tinue till the pis­ton en­gine pow­ered he­li­copters will be phased out com­pletely in not too dis­tant fu­ture.

As per the Fleet Re­port by Asian Sky, as of the end of the year 2016, the civil he­li­copter fleet in the coun­tries in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, the num­ber of plat­forms pow­ered by tur­bine en­gines stood at 3,924. This fig­ure sig­ni­fied an in­crease of 4 per cent over the fig­ure re­leased at the end of 2015. How­ever, the rate of growth in the year 2016 has been a lit­tle slower than that in the pre­vi­ous years. The down­turn in oil prices con­tin­ued to im­pact the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion in 2016. In pre­vi­ous years, off­shore oil and gas ser­vice providers were one of the main growth driv­ers for the re­gion. In 2016, there was an over­all re­duc­tion in the size of the Asia-Pa­cific fleet by 4.2 per cent. Re­duc­tion in the level of de­mand for off­shore ser­vices im­pacted the growth of the fleets of Aus­tralia, China, Malaysia, Thai­land and In­done­sia.

In the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, 61 per cent of the he­li­copter fleet is owned and op­er­ated by four na­tions namely Aus­tralia, Ja­pan, China and New Zealand. Over­all, Aus­tralia rep­re­sents the largest mar­ket for he­li­copters and to­day is the largest mar­ket for Bell He­li­copter. Aus­tralia is fol­lowed by Ja­pan which is the largest op­er­a­tor of he­li­copters from Air­bus and Leonardo also known as Agus­taWest­land. China rep­re­sents the largest mar­ket for Siko­rsky he­li­copters. As has been the record in the last few years, China has been lead­ing the growth in this field. In the year 2016, China has in­ducted 85 more he­li­copters into its civil fleet record­ing a

year on year rate of growth of 21 per cent. New Zealand fol­lows these three, with the largest mar­ket for plat­forms made by MD He­li­copters Hold­ings Inc.

The Fleet Re­port by Asian Sky in­di­cates that cur­rently the mis­sion pro­files in the fleet of he­li­copters op­er­ated by the dif­fer­ent na­tions in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion have, over the years, be­come in­creas­ingly di­verse. A ma­jor part of the fleet, es­ti­mated to be in the re­gion of 54 per cent, now have multi-mis­sion ca­pa­bil­ity. He­li­copters em­ployed for cor­po­rate tasks or for pri­vate use ac­count for 12 per cent. Nine per cent of the fleet is ded­i­cated to off­shore com­mit­ments, 7 per cent for search and res­cue tasks and 5 per cent for emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices.

In the re­cent past, there is an in­creas­ing trend to­wards dry leas­ing of he­li­copters from he­li­copter leas­ing com­pa­nies ded­i­cated to this seg­ment of busi­ness. Dry leas­ing im­plies leas­ing of the plat­form and not the fly­ing crew with it. By the end of 2016, op­er­a­tors of civil and com­mer­cial he­li­copters in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion had more than 170 he­li­copters that were taken on dry lease from dif­fer­ent leas­ing firms. Amongst the na­tions in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, Aus­tralia tops the list with 60 he­li­copters be­ing op­er­ated on dry lease in a num­ber of roles such as off­shore op­er­a­tions, emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices and other multi-mis­sion roles. In­dia is fig­ur­ing next on the list with 28 he­li­copters on dry lease be­ing op­er­ated pri­mar­ily for mis­sions re­lated to lo­gis­tic sup­port to oil plat­forms on the high seas. In­done­sia fig­ures next on the list with 25 he­li­copters on dry lease with the ma­jor­ity of these be­ing em­ployed for mul­ti­mis­sion op­er­a­tions. The largest com­pa­nies in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion en­gaged in the leas­ing busi­ness in­clude Mile­stone Avi­a­tion, Way­point Leas­ing, Aus­tralia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ), Air­work NZ, Lease Cor­po­ra­tion In­ter­na­tional (LCI) and Ea­gle Copters. CIVIL HE­LI­COPTERS OWNED BY COUN­TRIES IN THE ASIA-PA­CIFIC. Civil he­li­copters owned and op­er­ated by the ma­jor na­tions in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion are tab­u­lated in Fig­ure 1. The fleet of civil he­li­copters op­er­ated by na­tions in the Asi­aPa­cific na­tions are pro­vided by global orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers (OEMs). Num­ber of he­li­copters pro­vided by the OEMs is tab­u­lated in Fig­ure 2. GROWTH OF THE CIVIL HE­LI­COPTER FLEET — MA­JOR OP­ER­A­TORS. China. In the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, China, Hong Kong, Ma­cau and Tai­wan which to­gether is gen­er­ally de­scribed as Greater China, has been the fastest-grow­ing mar­ket in the re­gion. Over the last decade, the civil he­li­copter fleet of Greater China has reg­is­tered a 20.5 per cent year on year growth. In the wake of the in­di­ca­tion by the Civil Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China (CAAC) in its 12th Five Year Plan of in­ten­tions to­wards de­vel­op­ing and ex­ploit­ing the full po­ten­tial of gen­eral avi­a­tion, there have been ma­jor changes in pol­icy, eas­ing of reg­u­la­tory pro­vi­sions, de­velop- ment of in­fra­struc­ture and in­vest­ment in the in­dige­nous aero­space in­dus­try. With all these, the gen­eral avi­a­tion seg­ment of the avi­a­tion in­dus­try in China is likely to get a ma­jor boost on ac­count of which, the growth rate in the civil he­li­copter fleet of China will not only be sus­tained; but is ex­pected to rise in the years to come.

Aus­tralia. This na­tion rep­re­sents largest he­li­copter mar­ket in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion. How­ever, in the year 2016, the civil he­li­copter fleet in Aus­tralia grew only by a mea­gre 2 per cent re­flect­ing a dis­tinct slow­down in many of the roles the fleet is em­ployed in. How­ever, there has been growth in the emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices seg­ment wherein there has been a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the size of the fleet.

In­dia. In In­dia, dur­ing the year gone by, the size of the civil he­li­copter fleet saw a mar­ginal in­crease by a mere 1 per cent. How­ever, with more pro­gres­sive poli­cies for­mu­lated by the Min­istry of Civil Avi­a­tion as well as sub­stan­tial in­crease in oil ex­plo­ration in the In­dian Ocean, the de­mand for he­li­copters both in­land and for off­shore com­mit­ments is likely to in­crease.

In­done­sia. Dur­ing the year 2016, there has been stag­na­tion in the fleet size in In­done­sia with rate of growth at zero, pri­mar­ily on ac­count of the down­turn in the ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­i­ties in the oil and gas and other sec­tors re­lated to re­sources. The sit­u­a­tion has also been im­pacted by new reg­u­la­tions un­der which he­li­copters will not be per­mit­ted to op­er­ate be­yond the air­frame life of 30 years. Also, im­port of he­li­copters above 10 years of air­frame life will no longer be per­mit­ted.

Ja­pan. To­day the most in­dus­tri­alised na­tion in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion and per­haps also the most af­flu­ent has been em­ploy­ing civil or com­mer­cial ro­tary-wing plat­forms for long in roles such as search and res­cue, emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices and law en­force­ment. The na­tion also has the largest fleet of civil he­li­copters in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion which in the year 2016 grew only by 2 per cent. Air­bus and Leonardo (Agus­taWest­land) have the credit for de­liv­er­ing the largest num­ber of plat­forms to Ja­pan dur­ing the year gone by.

Malaysia. The slow­down in the off­shore oil and gas in­dus­try im­pacted the he­li­copter fleet of Malaysia as well. Around 33 per cent of the fleet is de­ployed in this sec­tor. Be­sides, he­li­copters em­ployed by the cor­po­rate world also did not reg­is­ter growth as many of the plat­forms en­gaged in this role have switched over to multi-mis­sion roles. Over­all, there was a mar­ginal re­duc­tion in the size of the fleet in Malaysia.

New Zealand. Dur­ing 2016, the strength of the ro­tary-wing fleet in New Zealand in­creased from 440 to 471, a growth rate of 7 per cent. In the re­gion, this fleet boasts of hav­ing the largest num­ber of he­li­copters from MDHI and a ma­jor­ity of these are em­ployed for multi-mis­sion op­er­a­tions. CON­CLU­SION. Over the years, the fleet of he­li­copters in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion has evolved into one that cov­ers a wide va­ri­ety of mis­sion pro­files. Multi-mis­sion role com­mands 54 per cent of the fleet, the cor­po­rate world ac­counts for 12 per cent, pri­vate and pri­vate use cor­ners 12 per cent, search and res­cue en­gages 7 per cent and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices utilise 5 per cent of the re­sources. For the ro­tary-wing fleet in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, the fu­ture ap­pears to be quite promis­ing as de­spite the re­duc­tion in global de­mand for he­li­copters as also the un­cer­tain­ties af­flict­ing the off­shore oil and gas sec­tor, de­mand for he­li­copters in Asia-Pa­cific re­gion still ap­pears set to grow. Apart from China that is ex­pected to con­tinue to lead the growth story, the other emerg­ing mar­kets such as in In­dia, In­done­sia and the Philip­pines, are also ex­pected to con­trib­ute to the grow­ing Asia-Pa­cific he­li­copter mar­ket.


(Top, L-R) AW169; Bell 429; (Above, L-R) HAL’s Dhruv civil he­li­copter; Air­bus H145.

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