Robinson Helicopter's Australian distributor Heliflite is facing delivery delays as 2005 sales of the very light R22 and R44 helicopters have surged to more than double the normal rate.

Australia is the largest market for Robinson outside North America and usually has annual sales of around 15 new aircraft, with a similar number of used types. John Skeen, Heliflite sales director, says sales of 40 new helicopters are booked this year, but delivery waiting time is up to nine months.

The Bankstown airport-based company used to hold an inventory of two R22s and a sole R44, but demand has been too strong since the US dollar depreciated against the Australian currency.

"The economy's going well, the Aussie dollar has gained 30% on the US dollar over the past 18 months and there is also a growing acceptance of helicopters as a legitimate business tool," he says. This acceptance means the company is broadening its sales base from agricultural customers, who have been the mainstay of Robinson users in the country traditionally.

Skeen estimates that around one-half of new sales are to rural operators, with flight schools, tourist charter operators and rural businessmen accounting for the remaining 50%. Skeen says the surge in demand is creating a "logistical problem" as many customers require the helicopters for the cattle-mustering season, which starts in the southern winter.

The company has 20 aircraft scheduled for delivery in the second half of this year, but is concerned that orders taken now may not arrive in time.


Source: Flight International