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Helicopter makers upbeat despite slump

The downturn in the helicopter will likely last
18 to 24 months, say experts.

Helicopter makers upbeat despite slump

PARIS, 17 hours, 21 minutes ago

Top US and European helicopter executives said this week that the oil price-led commercial helicopter market slump would be temporary and that they will keep investing in new technologies given the sector’s positive long-term outlook.

The downturn will likely last 18 to 24 months, Sikorsky Aircraft’s new president, Robert Leduc, said at Paris Air Show, adding that he fully expected demand to rebound at some point, according to a report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.

United Technologies Corporation’s announcement this week that it would sell or spin off Sikorsky was not a sign of enduring overcapacity in the market but rather a strategic move to focus on its supplier role, Leduc and other helicopter executives added.

The optimism about a recovery was reflected in comments by the head of Textron, who said the company was not interested in selling Bell Helicopter.

“We love our helicopter business,” Scott Donnelly said. “It’s a profitable business, it’s a great technology business, we’re investing a lot. It’s always going to go through cycles like every business in the world.”

Airbus Helicopters used the Paris show to launch a new heavy helicopter for civil customers. Chief executive Guillaume Faury said the oil price slump had caused some delivery deferrals but had also prompted customers to seek more efficient models for future demand.

“It’s triggering efforts from customers to reduce their costs,” Faury told journalists.

The oil price is down almost 40 per cent from a year ago, with Brent crude trading close to $63 a barrel.

Sikorsky’s Leduc said sales to the oil and gas sector accounted for about 80pc of its commercial sales, but that demand in other sectors remained solid, including VIP transports and emergency medical services.

He said overall he was encouraged by the company’s $49 billion order backlog, largely in US military programmes that account for about 70 per cent of the company’s business as it is the Pentagon’s biggest helicopter supplier.

Bell Helicopter president and chief executive John Garrison said sales to the oil and gas sector accounted for just 12 to 15 percent of company revenue, but lower oil prices were dampening demand for new aircraft in the Middle East and other countries highly dependent on the sector. – TradeArabia News Service

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