- 13 Nov 2023
- Rebecca Applegarth
- BizAv Market Insight
How competitive is the Mid-Size Twin-Engine Turbine Helicopter market, and how likely are new product launches in the near- to mid-term? René Armas Maes assesses the market for in-production models...Back to Articles
The mid-size twin-engine turbine helicopter market is characterized by multipurpose utility helicopters designed and built by a selection of well-established helicopter manufacturers.
Ultimately, the missions these aircraft are deployed to fulfil ranges widely – from corporate and VIP transportation, to offshore, law enforcement, media, special missions, air ambulance, and military. Currently there are four OEMs producing mid-size twin-engine turbine helicopter models.
Among the popular mid-size twin-engine turbine helicopters being produced today is the Airbus H145, which can carry up to nine passengers and two crew. A popular model across multiple sectors, the H145 family has more than 1,600 units in service around the world and has amassed more than seven million flight hours.
The Airbus H155, meanwhile, is a medium-lift transport helicopter characterised by its long range, high speed, and quiet operations. An enhanced version of the Dauphin family, the model has appeal to various sectors, including passenger/VIP/Corporate transport, government operations and offshore support.
Also, the Airbus H160 was built to create added value for customers in terms of performance, economic competitiveness, safety and comfort, and offers 15% reduced fuel consumption and perceived sound. Airbus’ Helionix avionics suite provides an all-in-one view of appropriate data, reducing pilot workload and augmenting situational awareness, while in VIP/Corporate configuration up to 10 passengers can be accommodated.
Offerings from Bell Helicopter for this market center on the Bell 412 model, a utility helicopter that is a development of the Bell 212 (with the major difference being the composite four-blade main rotor).
Among today’s variants is the Bell 412EP (EP representing Enhanced Performance) which utilizes Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3DF engines, and the Bell 412EPI (a glass cockpit version utilizing PT6T-9 electronic controlled powerplants).
The Bell 412EPX, meanwhile, provides increased internal maximum gross weight (up to 12,200lbs) while externally it features a gross weight of 13,000lbs, enabling operators to transport more payload and achieve better operational performance.
Elsewhere, Leonardo plays a key role in this sector with its AW139 and AW169 models. In executive/VIP configuration, the Leonardo AW139 can seat 10 passengers comfortably in a large and unobstructed cabin. More than 1,000 AW139 units are in service with customers worldwide.
Meanwhile, designed to share similarities with the AW139 and the larger AW189, the Leonardo AW169 is positioned to provide operators with an ideal combination of light to mid-size helicopter cost with higher category performance, payload, and cabin space.
And finally, the S-76 series represents Sikorsky’s first model specifically developed for the civilian. An intermediate class twin engine commercial helicopter, following a period of low demand for the S-76D, the OEM stopped taking orders for the model in March 2022 and is said to be looking to license production.
When considering whether new product launches are feasible for the mid-size twin-engine turbine helicopter manufacturers, it is first important to assess how the segment has performed in terms of new aircraft sales over the last few years.
Assessing General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) reports between 2018 and 2022, sales within this segment averaged almost 160 units annually, see Table A below.
TABLE A: Mid-Size-Turbine Helicopter Sales - 2018-2022
During that timeframe, the OEMs within this sector suffered a negative overall Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of -3.1%, although it is important to highlight that Bell Helicopter and Airbus Helicopters actually enjoyed positive CAGRs of almost 6.4% and 0.5%, respectively. Bell averaged 10 shipments per year during the timeframe, while Airbus shipped an average 79 units annually.
With Sikorsky registering a 0% CAGR for the period, the negative CAGR for the sector is entirely down to Leonardo’s -8.4% for the period. Leonardo averaged 58 units annually between 2018 and 2022.
As of the end of Q2 2023, 77 new mid-size twin-engine turbine helicopter units had been delivered, meaning that at least 82 additional units would need to be shipped by the OEMs within this segment by year-end in order to match their average for the past five years.
Historically speaking, the average sales in Q3 and Q4 within this segment appear to be strong quarters for shipments. It certainly seems feasible that 2023 Year-End shipments will at least match the necessary 82 units, so maintaining the average sales for mid-size twin-engine turbine helicopters seems possible in 2023.
In fact, depending on how bullish you are about the marketplace today, it is reasonable to expect the average to be exceeded, with final shipments for 2023 falling within the 165- to 190-unit range.
When considering possible OEM investment in new models, investors will naturally look to the relative health of the market. While, on the face of it, the negative Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of -3.1% between 2018 to 2022 may deter further investments (other than product upgrades), investors may look a little differently in the case of Airbus and Bell.
With 2023 shipments potentially standing at 1.04x-to-1.2x the 2018-2022 historical average of 159 units, Bell Helicopter might see an opportunity to capitalize and expand sales to make up some ground on Airbus and Leonardo within this segment.
However, challenging those two key players – who enjoyed an 86% share of the unit deliveries between 2018 and 2022 – could prove difficult. Therefore, if Bell opt to make a move in this sector, it could be through a lower-risk product development as opposed to a brand new product launch for the foreseeable future.
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