Asia: the helicopter market in 2015


The helicopter market continues to grow, particularly in China.

To sustain its growth, the helicopter market will need more training and maintenance capabilities.

Asian Sky Group ( has published its annual report on the helicopter market in Asia Pacific for 2015.

This is a good opportunity to reflect on the development of this industry and to identify business opportunities.

We will deliberately leave aside Australia and New Zealand. Indeed these two countries have a long tradition of using airplanes and helicopters which they operate in a western mode.

In China or ASEAN, the development of aviation is more recent and evens more the one of helicopters

The total fleet in Asia Pacific is 6000 units strong, much less that the 8000 in Europe or the 10 000 in the USA. However, Asia Pacific has half of the world population.

Almost half of the fleet is located in Australia and New Zealand, countries whose combined population is less than 30 million.

Indeed the correlation between the size of the population and the number of helicopters is not obvious. But the considerable differences with the western world still let believe in high growth potential.

The South East Asian fleet remain stable. This is not surprising as they are highly dependent to the oil industry. Hence there has been close to zero acquisition of new helicopters. The flight hours have considerably dropped, minus 30 % in Vietnam or Malaysia.

The only exception was in the Philippines, country that owns almost no oil, where the fleet has increased by 8 % up to 200 units.

The Chinese fleet has increased by 20 % from 576 to 694 aircraft. Even if this is comparably lower than in the previous years, it is still a world record!

Civil helicopters can be sorted out in five categories.

–      Public service : police, medical evacuation

–      Offshore :  crew change for oil rigs

–      Aerial works

–      Passenger transports

–      Private/corporate

Public service develops everywhere but in particular in China. The (numerous) police forces purchase even more helicopters and hospitals are getting their own also.

But we are still far from the ratio of 1 medical helicopter for 1 to 2 million people we enjoy in Europe or the USA.

The oil & gas sector is literally devastated. Nobody knows when the prices will go up or even if they will ever go up.

Aerial works is the fastest growing segment in China. It is sustained by the building up of infrastructure, mainly power lines.

Paying passengers transport remains relatively modest. This is an activity largely relying in tourism. It requires a relatively rich customer base, an accommodating regulation and operators deemed safe enough to be listed by travel agencies.

Unfortunately, none of the countries in this area meet the three criteria.

The private/corporate market remains very active in the Philippines where helicopters are status symbols.

This market used to be active in Malaysia as well. However the downturn of the economy has brought it close to zero.

Therefore, we shall expect two sectors to keep on growing steadily: the public service and the aerial works.

Three factors still will hinder their developments:

–      The lack of qualified manpower

–      The lack of maintenance facilities

–      Poorly adapted regulations

Therefore the markets of maintenance and training offer nice business opportunities.

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