- Honeywell is forecasting predicting marginally lower purchase plans in the USA. Please provide your own analysis of the North American market – given that over 40% of the world’s helicopter fleet is owned in this part of the world?
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many industries around the world, not just in North America. The rotorcraft industry is no different. I remain confident in our industry’s ability to weather this storm as well in its growth potential over the next several years and for the long term. Many of the companies that build, support, maintain, or operate helicopters are doing some of that work with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and remotely-piloted aircraft, and there is significant potential in that area once regulations and infrastructure are in place.
- What factors are contributing to this state? And how much of this would be attributed to COVID-19?
There is no doubt that COVID-19 is having an impact. How much of an impact will depend on how long this pandemic lasts. Our members have always put the safety and health of their customers and employees as their top priority. The good that helicopters do for the betterment of society is being demonstrated every day during this pandemic. We have members conducting medical transports; helicopters were used on Easter by religious figures to interact with communities.
- In your opinion will the helicopter market be able to ride this storm and give reasons for this? When do you believe it will be expected to recover?
Recovery time will likely depend on how quickly the virus can be managed. That said, our industry was already undergoing a transformation, embracing the world of remotely-piloted rotorcraft. Companies that included this technology may recover more quickly. Equally, the companies that spread their business model into different areas might also see a faster recovery. The continued development of urban air mobility projects will eventually provide global societies with more transportation options, and entrepreneurs will find some dynamic, unforeseen uses for these systems. With a continued need for new helicopters and UAS aircraft in a variety of industries, new designs and innovations by our members and strong government intervention, I believe our industry and others can ride out this storm.
- World Airnews is the longest serving – 47 years – international aviation magazine with a large sector of our readership and stakeholders coming from Africa. This year this market is significantly lower than last year. Do you have any thoughts on why this market is suffering this year?
The COVID-19 pandemic is not limited to the Unites States. The 54 countries making up the African continent are no different. For example, tourism which is a major economic driver in many parts of Africa has been hard hit by COVID-19 impacting many helicopter tour operators. Once tourism starts to rebound in Africa I would expect our member operations to follow suit. With some dense population centers spread throughout the continent, I believe Africa was poised for growth in the rotorcraft field before the pandemic occurred.
- Are there any new models that HAI is expecting to be launched this year or the next?
I think the Leonardo/Kopter SH-09, the Leonardo AW609 tilt rotor, and the Sikorsky S-97 Raider might be the closest to certification, but I imagine the pandemic created delays in these areas just like it did everywhere else. Many of the manufacturers have scaled back their productions to maintain social distancing. There is also new technology advancing throughout the UAS market, so I expect to see a variety of remotely-piloted products becoming available soon as well.
- What is the future for helicopters in general? Do you see them as being the taxi of the future?
Rotorcraft is poised to take over a lot of airspaces. Most of the aeronautical engineering underway is focused on either space or local transportation of people and material. I don’t hear a significant amount of news about urban air delivery using fixed-wing craft, nor long-range battery-powered aeroplanes. There are still a number of steps that need to occur here, notably capability and certification, but this market segment is poised for extensive growth.
- Lastly having just taken over the reins of HAI , do you have any plans for the organisation/ any changes or directions that you would like to take it?
I made no secret of the changes I expected to make, with the approval of our Board of Directors. We really want to expand internationally, doing more to help the rotorcraft industry around the world. We also want to be more inclusive of the UAS and urban air mobility industries as well. Then the pandemic began, and we’ve had to slow our processes just a little. While we’re waiting, we’re focusing internally and restructuring our organisation in areas where we can be more efficient. We’re focusing more on our members, and providing them with what they need to succeed. Consequently, we’re looking at some really interesting tools and methods that will help us help them. Once the pandemic passes, we’re ready to keep moving HAI into some exciting new areas and new heights.