75 civil copters in next 5 years; Airbus eyes big share

75 civil copters in next 5 years; Airbus eyes big share

Airbus Helicopter H145

India’s tiny civil helicopter market of 275 aircraft is set to take a leap with the addition of about 75 choppers in the next three to five years. Betting big on this anticipated growth, market leader Airbus Helicopters has seen a positive sign: The Centre’s decision to legalise 400 civil helipads nationwide.

The Indian civil chopper numbers account for less than one per cent of the world’s civil chopper fleet of over 34,000. Even the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo has 750 helicopters. Airbus holds the largest, 37% of the Indian market.

An Airbus H145 helicopter was the latest to enter the Indian market at the ongoing Aero India 2019 here.

The Mumbai-based Heligo Charters Pvt Ltd took delivery of a H145 chopper. Airbus recently surpassed Bell, taking its helicopter numbers in the country to 102. 

“The civil helicopter market grew by only 2 to 2.5 % in the last five years. But we expect a 8-9% growth in the next five years, primarily driven by Heli-Tourism, oil and gas exploration and VIP transportation,” Airbus Helicopters’ India president, Ashish Saraf told DH

The emergence of urban air connectivity, such as the Heli-taxis launched in Bengaluru by Thumbi Aviation, new helicopter requirements in powerline servicing and wind farm management will drive the growth, said Saraf. 

Currently, Airbus Helicopters’ fleet in India is a mix of the single-engine four-seater H120, the six-seater H130, the seven-seater H130; the twin-engine H135 and eight-seater H145 with night flying capability. “More operators will come into the heli-taxi sector. We expect more helipads to get operational in cities, particularly in Bengaluru,” Saraf elaborated.

Corporate biggies such as Tata Aviation, L&T Aviation, Bharat Forge, Bajaj and the Adani Group have also evinced interest in acquiring Airbus Helicopters. Bell and Augusta Westland are also in the race to widen their presence.

Although the first civil helicopter in India was flown in November 1953, the commercial use of choppers was limited till 1986 to small aviation companies involved in communication and crop spraying. 

But the formation of the Helicopter Corporation of India in 1986 (Later Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd), gave the first boost to the market. Pawan Hans now operates the largest fleet in the country. Thirty-seven of its 50-strong fleet are Airbus helicopters, informed Saraf. Most are Dauphin / H155s.  

Helicopter types in the civil market are based on the aircraft’s speed, range, safety and reliability, hot/high capability, cabin size and brand experience. Besides Airbus, the most popular single-engine helicopters include Eurocopter’s EC 130/AS 350, Bell 407, Robinson R-66 and AgustaWestland’s AW 109.