Russia’s helicopter market stabilizes

Russian Mil helicopters Oil companies’ requirements make helicopter operators revamp their fleets (Leonid Faerber / Transport-Photo.com)

After a dramatic downturn in civil helicopter flight time in Russia in 2015 (minus 8.4 per cent on 2014, according to Russia’s Transport Clearing House data), the volume of helicopter services as of 2016-2017 seems to have stabilized at around a total 400,000 flight hours.

At least, a number of representatives of the helicopter industry showed no signs of concern when asked by ATO Show Observer, Russian Aviation Insider’s sister publication, to share their opinions on the market development.

The industry is now being stimulated by the medevac aviation development project across 34 regions of the country, which saw Russian Helicopters Holding deliver 29 rotorcrafts to the GTLK State Transport Leasing Company in 2017 and with the government-owned lessor due to receive a further 31 this year.

As a result of this programme, several regional operators were at once able to revamp their fleets over a controlled period of time and, according to some estimates, the project will result in some additional 20,000 flight hours for the market.

More demanding requirements now set by oil companies for those helicopters operated on their behalf force local operators to substitute their old Mil Mi-8s with newer Mil Mi-17 variants, or abandon single-engined, foreign-built machines in favour of twin-engined versions.

2017 saw UTair Group’s helicopter workload more than triple over 2016, a representative of Russia’s leading helicopter operator, working in the interests of oil companies, noted.

Despite the complicated current political situation, the foreign market for helicopter services including, for example the United Nations’ contracts, remain accessible to Russian operators. However, they also note the increased competitive nature of price corrections. The domestic market has seen a sluggish flight-hour price development, with a disproportionate growth of spare parts prices. Against this backdrop the operators are doing their best to implement internal cost-cutting strategies.

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