Future demand for large helicopters will outstrip supply, according to a leading global rotorcraft operator.

Jonathan Baliff, chief executive of Bristow Group – which has a fleet of 212 large- and medium-size helicopters – says supply “continues to be tight”, with manufacturers’ production lines “sold out” until 2016.

And, warns chief financial officer John Briscoe, “we continue to see an overall shortage in aircraft supply compared to future demand”.

The increasing need has been driven by growth in deep-water offshore oil and gas exploration, which requires larger rotorcraft to service the platforms.

Although oil services businesses are attempting to invest in a disciplined way, “what Bristow and our competitors see is continued growth in tenders in global helicopter demand. In fact, in certain markets, at record pace,” said Baliff, speaking on a 6 August call to discuss the company’s first-quarter earnings.

In the period to 30 June, Bristow took delivery of nine new helicopters, including its first pair of AgustaWestland AW189s.

Additionally, the company firmed three options during the quarter which, based on company documentation, appear to be for a pair of Sikorsky S-92s and an Airbus Helicopters EC225, giving a total of 37 firm orders.

Bristow S-92 line

Bristow Group

Bristow also retains options covering a further 51 helicopters, according to its stock exchange filings. These, says chief operating officer Jeremy Akel, “allow us to short-circuit lead times” if additional rotorcraft are required urgently.

Preparations for the start of search and rescue operations under the UK’s Long SAR contract are continuing, adds Baliff. Lease financing will be completed on the helicopters for the requirement – 11 AW189s and 11 S-92s – this financial year, he adds.

Delivery of the first helicopters for the contract will take place “in the next few quarters”, adds Briscoe.

Construction on two new bases in Humberside and Inverness is proceeding, and the facilities will go live next year. Overall, the company’s preparations are “on schedule and on budget”, Baliff says.

Meanwhile, Bristow continues to pursue other SAR business opportunities, in both the public and private sectors, covering a total of 16 aircraft.

Revenue for the first quarter stood at $437 million, with net income at $44.1 million.

Source: FlightGlobal.com