Helicopter Association International HAI Matt Zuccaro president gave his take on the current helicopter market and beyond when he spoke to World Airnews
Despite the recent down turn in the oil industry Helicopter Association International president Matt Zuccaro remains upbeat about the present state of the civilian helicopter market.
Commenting in relation to the Honeywell forecast for 2019 – which records a slight decline in new purchases world-wide, Zuccaro said the diversity of the report gives a unique look into the helicopter world and the outlook between North America and developing countries will not look the same.
Factors which could have contributed to the Honeywell prediction of 4,000 unit purchases for 2019 also include the general state of the world-wide economy which is battling at the moment and this will have an impact on operators and leasing companies whose assets are sitting on the ramp.
“It is this pool that must be sold first before any new orders can be placed,” said Zuccaro.
Turning his attention to Africa and the Middle East, he said, that Honeywell recorded that the region would have a 15% new purchase rate – the second highest next to North America.
“This is where the growth is the strongest. It is exciting times for this region as the industry comes into maturity and makes more and more use of more and more mission profiles many of which are for the greater good in society such as wildlife protection, fire-fighting, power line inspection and transportation,” he said.
“So while in general I agree with the Honeywell forecasts I have to say that more and more individuals are making use of helicopters as an essential business tool and that these machines are seen as an asset and something that is essential”.
“But having said that, many companies are extremely optimistic about the future. We have just come out of the HAI Heli-Expo in Atlanta and it was fantastic. There were many deals being written up on the floor.”
“It’s very difficult to predict exactly what the number of units sold in the world is going to be”.
Moving onto the future of helicopters, the world is witnessing one of the most incredible moments in the history of transportation. As we move away from fossil fuels to electricity the freedom to innovate is already at our door.
Zuccaro said the future of transportation lies in a combination between helicopters and unmanned drones or vehicles.
“Helicopters can undertake plenty of different types of missions – which no other vehicle can better execute – but then there are drones and these can fly at a height of at less than 500 feet, added to this the advances made on the EVTOL or electric vertical takeoff and lift sector – the future lies somewhere in-between all of these elements”.
He said the time is coming when technology will be so advanced “that we will be using unmanned vehicles to get around” and members of the public are going to be saying nothing about flying in these vehicles.
“In fact they will rather be considering which vehicle will take them longer using less energy”.
He said companies are looking at ways for the machine to fly faster, fly higher, carry a heavier payload and in the fixed wing category new and advanced types of blades as well as considering all the ‘push pull’ factors
The focus is on quiet technology . Everything is about reducing noise – and this is again where drones come in. In fact many of the booths at the Heli-Expo were taken up by the newest drone technology. I think, all in all, we are reaching a watershed moment. It is exciting times as the thirst for these advancements continues.
Currently the biggest challenge facing in the helicopter market is how to address the world-wide shortage of maintenance technicians and pilot.
Zuccaro said HAI is busy on an aggressive drive to attract young people into the industry focussing on a sales and marketing campaign to capture their hearts and minds.
“We are competing with other sectors of the airline industry like charter and commercial who are also looking and facing the same challenge. In this technological world, young people have so many unbelievable opportunities.”
He said HAI had worked with the university of North Dakota looking into the shortage and their study had showed between 8 000 – 35 000 maintenance technicians would be needed over the next couple of years.
“We actually had three scheduled airlines on the floor at Heli-Expo hawking the floor – actively recruiting helicopter pilots to move over into the commercial world. It is a competitive world and we are going to have to be aggressive about how we attract young people to this exciting sector.
NEW ON THE MARKET
Specifically, several models of helicopter that are planning to launch this year are:
- The Kopter SH-9 – a Swiss-built multi-seat helicopter for primarily commercial use.
- The Sikorsky S-97 Raider – a coaxial compound helicopter with stacked tandem-rotors and a “pusher” prop for mostly military work.
- The Zefhir – an Italian-built two-seater for commercial use.
“I remember back in the day when trams were first introduced and many people refused to get in them. They said they did not want to get in them as no-one was driving them. Today nobody could care less and trams are totally accepted.”
Today we are looking at self-driving cars and very soon we will be looking at self driving aircraft or taxis. These future aircraft will have no crews and this will be a whole other ball game.”