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Editorial: A Rising Tide Will Not Lift All Boats

October 13, 2021  ByHelicopters Staff


The global helicopter market is expected to reach US$69.2 billion by 2028, according to an August 2021 report called Helicopter Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis by research group Fortune Business Insights, which notes the market stood at US$50.42 billion in 2020. Pointing to flat growth in 2020 at 2.0 per cent, Fortune Business Insights estimates the global helicopter market will grow from US$52.56 billion in 2021 to the US$69.20 billion mark in 2028 with a CAGR of 4.1 per cent in the forecast period. 

It is difficult to fully predict how the pandemic is changing demand for the global helicopter industry, but, even as several legacy operators decided to shutter their companies over the past two years, the next few years bring potential for growth. A rising tide, however, is unlikely to lift all boats. Even as the helicopter industry illustrated how its services are essential through sectors like EMS and fighting wildfires, the potential for lasting inflation and the range of tapering policies being set into motion around the globe will impact how economies emerge from the easing of pandemic supports by governments.

It is critical for businesses of all shapes and sizes to consider how inflation might impact their most important investments for growth into the future, particularly for Canadians who might purchase aircraft in U.S. dollars. In an early October article for Bloomberg, John Authers put the situation into context with a report called Inflation Clarity Doesn’t Mean the News Is Good, followed by the even clearer subhead Disappointing labour data, spiking commodities prices and supply-chain headaches are scarier than Covid-19 for markets these days. “Absent the arrival of a truly terrifying new variant that is lethal and also impervious to all the vaccines we have at present, it looks as though we have reached the point where the market is no longer that concerned about the pandemic’s medical progression,” writes Authers. “There is general optimism that it needn’t be as horrifically damaging in the future, along with pessimism that it’s bound to become endemic.”

Authers explains inflationary pressure is broadening as businesses wrestle with higher prices. In early October, energy prices were rising around the world. What began as a European supply issue for natural gas, quickly turned toward petroleum with the cost of a barrel of oil reaching above US$80 and seemingly heading toward US$90. Some economists were predicting the return of US$120 per barrel, which on pricing alone would certainly impact sectors like helicopter tourism.

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Even as cash flow was a significant issue for many aviation operators, both fixed- and rotary-wing throughout the pandemic, several helicopter operators have taken advantage of the low interest rates over the past several months to prepare for the future, which will include the need for more flexible and fuel-efficient aircraft. At the start of September, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) released its report of general aviation aircraft shipments and billings through the second quarter of 2021. Piston, turboprop, business jet and helicopter deliveries increased across all segments during the first six months of 2021 as compared to the same period of 2020.

According to GAMA, turbine helicopter deliveries through the second quarter of 2021, when compared to the same period in 2020, saw an increase of 33 per cent, with 258 units; and piston helicopter deliveries saw an increase of 31.7 per cent, with 83 units. “Efforts to address ongoing supply chain issues, strengthen our workforce and enhance environmental sustainability will continue to be at the forefront as interest and demand for aircraft remains robust,” said GAMA CEO Pete Bunce, speaking to how key operational issues are becoming more intertwined. This was certainly the focus of Airbus’ first summit focused on “Pioneering Sustainable Aerospace” in mid-September.

More than ever, fuel and operational efficiency will be two critical factors for how helicopter manufacturers meet end-user requirements. As Fortune Business Insights notes, based on weight, the medium-weight segment is expected to show significant growth owing to the improved fuel efficiency and maneuverability of such machines compared to heavy-weight machines worldwide. | H

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