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Sikorsky parent warns on near-term civil helicopter sales prospects

Helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky is unlikely to see any upturn in the commercial market over the next two years, parent company Lockheed Martin has warned.

Sikorsky only offers two dedicated civil helicopters, the medium-twin S-76D and the S-92 heavy-twin. Neither has sold in great volumes in recent years, with the latter particularly affected by the downturn in the offshore oil and gas market.

Flight Fleets Analyzer records just three deliveries of each type during 2017.

Speaking on a full-year earnings call on 29 January, Lockheed chief financial officer Bruce Tanner warned that crude oil prices would need to remain at $65/barrel or above "for a little while longer" to "drive some of the volume of helicopters in the oil and gas industry".

He adds: "So we are obviously not expecting a large increase on the commercial helicopters in 2018 compared to 2017.

"And frankly, we are looking pretty flat in 2019 as well. Obviously, that could change pretty quickly depending on oil and gas prices."

Deliveries of military helicopters will also fall by about 50 units in 2018, warns Tanner, on lower volumes of its UH-60 Black Hawk and MH-60R Seahawk contained in the latest multi-year procurement for the US government.

However, Tanner points out that volumes of the CH-53K for the US Marine Corps and the VH-92, produced under the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Programme, will begin to offset some of the H-60 downturn in the coming years.

He says 2018 will be "a low point in sales" for Sikorsky, with growth in 2019 and beyond.

Tanner remains confident that the airframer will secure export customers for the CH-53K heavy-lifter, identifying Germany and Israel as the most likely buyers.

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