Two engine manufacturers are forecasting continued robust demand for civil helicopters despite concerns over some operating sectors.

AlliedSignal Aerospace is projecting deliveries of 2,350 new turbine-powered helicopters over five years from 1999 to 2003, while Rolls-Royce (formerly Allison) has produced a broadly similar forecast for 5,410 civil deliveries over the next 10 years, to 2008.

The two companies have used different methodologies, Allied-Signal basing its projection on input from almost 1,000 flight departments worldwide. R-R, meanwhile, has applied the demand-modelling approach developed for its fixed-wing aircraft market forecasts.

R-R says more than 525 new turbine helicopters were delivered last year, slightly below its forecast, because of certification slippages. The company expects deliveries to peak at around 590 units this year, then stabilise at around 520 a year as manufacturers work off backlogs for new designs.

Both firms say demand for new helicopters is stimulated by new "higher-value" models introduced by manufacturers, citing examples like the Bell 407 and Eurocopter EC120 light turbine singles.

R-R forecasts turbine singles will account for 56% of deliveries, and light twins 20% - proportions similar to those foreseen by AlliedSignal. Both see a trend towards twins in Europe, as a result of regulatory pressure. But Joint Aviation Regulations (JAR-Ops 3) that would have "-virtually eliminated single-engine helicopters from the European market" have been altered and the impact "-will not now be as dramatic as originally feared", says Rolls-Royce.

In the USA, where singles dominate, the impact of the Pentagon's disposal of military-surplus helicopters has dwindled, says Rolls-Royce. Registrations of ex-military machines dropped to 53 last year, from a peak of 361 in 1995.

The sector giving the most concern is offshore support, where continued low oil prices have resulted in a severe contraction in exploration and production activity. Allied-Signal has halved its forecast for offshore demand to just 6% of new deliveries.

Source: Flight International