Rotor & Wing International
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European Industry Weighs Challenging Times

Operators, manufacturers and vendors will debate the impact of oil’s downturn, drones and regulations on their business activities.

This year’s Helitech International, organized by Reed Exhibitions and run in association with the European Helicopter Assn. (EHA), will open at the RAI Amsterdam from Oct. 11 to 13. The major civil rotorcraft industry event in Europe is attracting thousands of participants with promises of new content in a context of uncertainty for the sector.

According to Honeywell’s 2016 global rotorcraft forecast, civilian helicopter deliveries are expected to reach a number between 4,300 and 4,800 over the next five years, a decline of roughly 400 helicopters from the 2015 five-year outlook. A number of factors currently affecting the sector explain cautious purchase plans, including a volatile global economy, lower oil prices, difficulties in the oil and gas segment and slower economic growth in China. Europe accounts for 25% of the global deliveries and purchasing plans.

On the other hand, the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) market shows a positive outlook, with aftermarket upgrades and repairs to increase in importance.

At the same time, new helicopters are entering the market, while safety and situational awareness needs are pushing devices like helicopter terrain awareness and warning systems (HTAWS) or flight data monitoring systems. Concepts like high-speed helicopters are around the corner.

In spite of the rotorcraft industry confronting a time of change, John Hyde, exhibition director at Helitech is looking forward to welcoming around 3,000 attendees to the show.

Helitech will be held at RAI Amsterdam from Oct. 11 to 13.Photo courtesy of RAI Amsterdam

More than 180 leading suppliers will showcase their products and services and this year will see more than 30 companies make their Helitech debut. Back in 2013, the show had been co-located with the MRO Europe event, with synergies driving more visitors. The show organizers are looking to build on this and are currently considering renewing this location for the next few years. “In a challenging period of change there is an even greater need to meet, network and discuss future strategy. Shows like Helitech are crucial for this” said John Hyde. “We’re attracting a broad audience. We’re not only a show, it is a platform for rotorcraft professionals to make connections within the industry, to create opportunities for companies to secure new missions and contracts while giving visitors the chance to source the latest products and services.”

Prior to the 2013 event, Helitech, held every two years in the U.K. and was traditionally considered a very U.K.-focused event. Now an annual event alternating between Amsterdam and London, it has become a truly European show attracting a wider international audience.

“This year we return to the RAI Amsterdam for the second time following a successful debut of the venue for the 2014 event. The show is set to feature over 180 exhibitors from 20 different countries. Some will be travelling from as far as the U.S., looking to explore opportunities of exporting to the European market”, said John Hyde.

In order to meet the helicopter industry’s current topics of concern, the show organizers have implemented a new seminar and workshop program based on the trends shaping the future of the sector in the next 12 months. Main discussion topics include: how the downturn in the oil and gas market impacts new aircraft purchases; attracting pilots and mechanics for the more complex missions taking place in the industry; future trends in helicopter medical emergency services (HEMS), delivering SAR services in challenging environments; and trends in airborne law with a focus on law enforcement. These will be reflected in various sessions and workshops at the show.

Civilian helicopter deliveries are expected to reach between 4,300 and 4,800 over the next five years.Graphic courtesy of Honeywell

Alongside the returning Business Leaders Forum and Safety Workshop, operators will form a key focus for the 2016 program with the launch of the Operators Forum, where like-minded individuals from across the globe can network with and discuss the evolving rotorcraft industry and ways of improving missions. “50 operators have been interviewed about the issues they have and following their feedback we have narrowed this down to the top five trends or concerns identified. Many of these are common to all, such as fleet management and regulatory issues”, said John Hyde.

“Based on the feedback we’ve had, it’s great to hear about the new products, but attendees also want to gain insight and more of a technical point of view on the industry. For the first time this year we’re also working with manufacturers to launch technical workshops that will offer interactive briefings on different types of technology, fit outs and missions.” Delivered by leading businesses, including OEMs who will be exhibiting at Helitech, such as Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Bell Helicopter, the sessions will enable operators to garner actionable insights before making purchasing decisions.

New Insight Seminars, taking place over the three days of the show, will focus on HEMS, SAR and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

On the first day, HEMS operators will hear about future trends in emergency medicine and the impact they will have on air ambulances and mission equipment. Experts including members of the Assn. of Air Ambulances or European HEMS and Air Ambulance Committee (EHAC) will review how pre-hospital emergency medical services are evolving across Europe and how that will impact requirements from HEMS aircraft and equipment in the future.

American company AAR Airlift is making its debut at the show after commencing early this year rescue operations in the Falkland Islands for the U.K. Ministry of Defence with British International Helicopters (BIH) and Air Rescue Systems (ARS). Operations are conducted with Sikorksy S-61N helicopters and Leonardo AW189s. Accepted in November 2015, the two AW189s are the first Civil Aviation Authority approved AW189s operating in a SAR role. Partners should give an insight about those commercial SAR operations in the Falkand Islands.

The U.S. is expected to become the biggest market for the Guimbal Cabri G2 by the end of 2017.Photo courtesy of Guimbal

At the UAV seminar, global experts from companies including Sky-Futures and DroneSar will talk about how rotorcraft businesses are integrating UAVs and systems into their operations. The UAV market has been growing exponentially in the last 5 yr, driving business opportunities including complementing helicopter activities in SAR missions and asset inspection in challenging environments.

Irish company DroneSar developed the first UAV SAR-dedicated app, while Sky-Futures, the leading provider of drone inspection data services for the oil and gas industry, announced in February that it received a $4.2 million investment from Bristow, bolstering Bristow’s offerings to include drone inspection services.

On Oct. 11, EHA will run its rotorcraft seminars. Informative sessions will focus on rule making and legislation, while the European Aviation Safety Agency will update attendees on the organization’s progress and achievements. An interactive session, presented by Jaime Arqué, chairman of the EHA will tackle some operators’ main concerns, like pilot licences, aerial work oxygen requirement and age 60 for pilots, with opportunities to comment or raise queries on each topic.

Safety will be emphasized again on the last day of the show, with the Safety Workshop, hosted by the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) and the European Helicopter Safety Team (EHST). Leading figures will assess the opportunity to further improve safety across all the industry’s sectors, from aerobatic display to challenges of operations near wind turbines, and threats posed by drones.

UAV proliferation is a matter of concern, especially for helicopter operators likely to operate in the same lower airspace. Many member states in Europe, like in the U.S., have started introducing regulatory frameworks. EASA’s activities on UAVs will be part of the discussion. The European agency, whose competency is currently limited to big UAVs above 150 kg, is nonetheless trying to embrace the issue of smaller UAVs. They have published on Aug. 22 “prototype” drone rules. Those rules are for information and consultation, but could turn into an actual regulation within a few years pending adoption of a modification of EASA’s basic competencies to be submitted next year.

The Business Leaders Forum, which has been a success for the last two years, will return. Those from all over the supply chain will join experts and industry leaders to raise issues of the coming few years and generate a discussion with the audience. Throughout the morning session on Oct. 12, a panel of experts including Ian Gurekian, chief risk officer at Waypoint Leasing, and Gretchen Haskins, CEO of HeliOffshore, will discuss the ways forward to the industry.

Among newcomers to the show, Swiss company Marenco Swisshelicopter, developer of the light turbine SKYe SH09, is eager to talk to potential customers as the third prototype of its innovative composite helicopter will roll out by the end of the year. Certification is expected in 2017. The 2.65-ton helicopter will be competing with aircraft like the Airbus H130 and H125, the Leonardo AW119 and the Bell 407.

Much affected with the problems on the H225 Super Puma family since the crash of a H225 in Norway last April, Airbus should come to the show with a H145 and a H130. Airbus is expected to celebrate the 20 yr of service of the H135. The aircraft has had a year of strong achievements, with China’s order for 100 aircraft and the planned set-up of the first assembly line in China, then the U.K.’s Military Flying Training System (MFTS) contracts. Upgrades are planned on the model, such as the introduction of the Helionix avionics suite, soon to be certified on the H135.

Safran Helicopter Engines is promoting efforts to achieve this year a 70% share on this helicopter with the Arrius 2B2, the market for the H135 being currently well balanced between Safran Helicopter Engines and Pratt&Whitney Canada. Also wait to here on the latest developments on the future family of high power Engines (2500/3000+shp). Of course, the latest products, the Arrano currently tested for Airbus Helicopter’s new H160 and the Arrius 2R, nearing first deliveries with Bell’s new 505 JetRanger X, will also take the stage.

Bell is bullish about this new short single 505, which is awaiting certification very soon, first by Transport Canada. The Bell 505 JetRanger X has secured over 350 letters of intent worldwide, with 60 coming from Europe, “definitively more than expected originally,” said Bell.

The company has invested heavily in Europe in the last 5 yr and promises even more in the future. It will be exhibiting a Bell 429 at the show, while the aircraft has seen success in Europe with 70 aircraft flying in the HEMS and parapublic markets.

As of September, investigation regarding the crash of the prototype Bell 525 is ongoing. Flight tests have been suspended, and the company couldn’t say at the moment how that would affect the initial planned certification date of 2017. Anyway, it is confident the aircraft will be well positioned when the offshore market recovers, which is expected within the next 2 to 3 yr. R&WI