Sikorsky has predicted an upturn in the offshore support helicopter market after carrying out a survey of the petroleum industry. "Prospects for the next 12 to 18 months are brighter than we have seen recently, all over the world," says Mike Moran, director of commercial programmes.

The US company also believes there will be a shift towards the 12-seat helicopter market occupied by its S-76C+, because operators of larger aircraft will move towards smaller machines as rigs become more automated, and operators of smaller helicopters will need longer-range aircraft as platforms move further offshore.

Although oil prices are at an historic low, Moran says Sikorsky's research shows that investment by petroleum companies is driven by their need to find new reserves to stay ahead of consumption, "-which is increasing worldwide".

Whereas production is becoming increasingly automated, exploration is not, according to Moran, and is expected to drive demand for helicopter support.

Overcapacity in the offshore support market has led to low rates, which have prevented operators from re-equipping, but Moran says there has been some relaxation of the rates offered by oil companies, increasing the prospects for new-aircraft sales.

He says the study suggests that "-the outlook for offshore oil helicopter transport is quite high".

Source: Flight International