The Australian helicopter fleet is undergoing an expansion which is showing no signs of abating.
At present, the industry growth rate is 10% pa or three times that of the Australian economy. Helicopter numbers have doubled in ten years, from 980 to 1,970 and will double again in only seven years due to the accelerating rate of growth caused by the demands from Asia for energy and mineral resources. The SAR and HEMS operations are also increasing as the public demands improved emergency services in remote areas.
By comparison, the aeroplane GA fleet is virtually in a recession with a growth rate struggling to make even 1%. This could be the subject of a political debate to see if government policy makers understand the ramifications of the closure of many regional airports.
The latest government GDP figures show our economy is growing at 4.3% pa, the best since 2007. The three best performing regions were the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, where the growth rates are at least twice the GDP. By coincidence, 60% of the Australian helicopter industry is located within these regions and will naturally benefit from the emerging energy and mining industries.
Of concern is the 21% pa growth of the twin engine fleet which is nearly three times more than the single engine 8% pa rate. This segment will be further pressured by SAR, HEMS and offshore orders coming from NT, Qld and WA. Many senior managers are worried about our capacity to train staff for the new multi-crew IFR capable helicopters arriving in the next six years.
In June 2012, the top five twin registrations were: Bell 412 (33); BK117 (31); S-76 (29) Eurocopter 332 (22) and AW139 (11). It is predicted the ME numbers will treble from 211 to 756 over the next seven years due to Asian needs for oil, gas and minerals. In particular, the transfer of Army and Navy helicopter pilot training to a civilian contractor, scheduled to start around early 2016 will drain the 30 Australian flying schools of highly experienced staff. The lack of night, instrument and NVG instructors even now is becoming critical.
registration of the AHIA will be completed by July 2012 and an inaugural executive appointed soon after. It is anticipated the official launch of the AHIA will take place at Avalon Airshow 2013. At present the steering committee is working with many organisations such as Aviation Australia to see how the skill shortages, especially in the engineering trades can be minimised. Need more information? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org