A view from the top

A view from the top

Helitech International 2016 may be eight months away, but we are already busy planning for this year’s event. After a successful event in London, we’re returning to Amsterdam where we’ll once again be discussing some of the rotorcraft industry’s most pertinent subjects.

If you pick up a newspaper or trade publication, it will be difficult to miss a story about oil prices. While the public may be overjoyed at the news, the rotorcraft industry is feeling the effect more than most.

Major OEMs have long benefited from booming offshore oil drilling and production, with operators in regions such as the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico demanding regular new aircraft. According to some estimates, 40 percent of civil-use helicopter sales are directly related to the oil and gas industry – highlighting its importance.

However, Reuters is one of many outlets reporting that the decreasing oil price is now starting to impact helicopter transport firms – the major customers of the OEMs. With offshore operations being scaled back, there are potentially fewer members of crew to fly, less material to deliver and in some cases fewer search-and-rescue missions.

Despite the negativity, some are more optimistic. Bristow Group – a leader in helicopter oil and gas transportation services – recently told AIN that it “was working with customers to find ways to help them through the situation,” and had no plans to cancel any helicopter orders. In particular the company singled out Brazil as an area of opportunity, with a number of ongoing projects expected to continue despite the uncertainty around oil.

Sikorsky is one manufacturer seeking out new opportunities, to offset any potential lost orders. A recent article in Reuters referenced that the company “sees good prospects for international helicopter sales in areas such as search and rescue and border patrol”. The latter of which is particularly interesting considering the security conscious world in which we now live. It will be interesting to see if that prediction comes to fruition.

While it’s important for the rotorcraft industry to be looking at ways to maintain sales and operations in the oil and gas sector, we may now be at a point where alternatives need to be sought.

Ultimately, this is a discussion that will not disappear, and it will continue to be on the agenda for months to come. Let’s see how the issues within this area develop, but I’m sure come October we will still have plenty to discuss at Helitech International 2016.

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