For many centuries, scientists contemplated how to design a flying object similar to today’s helicopter designs. The difficulty of achieving the desired balanced functioning of a helicopter lasted until the 1940s. Since the mid-20th century, helicopters became a type of industrially manufactured aircraft able to dynamically balance acting on at least two rotors, one on top and one on the tail. Distinguishing features of a helicopter attracted commercial and military attention. Thus, the features of a helicopter could fill in the long existed transportation needs gap globally. This facilitated the market for the helicopter manufacturing industry. In 2019, the global helicopter market size was over 48 billion U.S. dollars. The global maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) helicopter market amounted to just over nine billion U.S. dollars in 2018.
Distinctive operating characteristics of a helicopter allows it to conduct tasks that are merely not feasible with other aircraft or are risky to accomplish on the ground. Operational uses of helicopter include transportation of people and cargo, military uses, firefighting, search and rescue, medical transport, law enforcement, agriculture, news and media. In 2019, the size of the commercial helicopter market was over 30 billion U.S. dollars, twice larger than the military usage. By country comparisons, the United States holds the largest fleet of commercial helicopters in the world, with over 9,000 helicopters in 2019. This fleet size is over four times higher than the second-largest fleet, which is Canada.
Leading helicopter manufacturers
When it comes to the manufacturers of helicopters, there are few firms producing helicopters because of the high capital and skill intensive investment of helicopter manufacturing. In 2020, Airbus Helicopters held roughly 48 percent of the market, followed by Leonardo Helicopters which had 20 percent of the global market. The production of rotorcrafts by Airbus Helicopters declined sharply from 451 rotorcraft in 2013 to 300 rotorcraft in 2019. Nonetheless, the revenue of Airbus Helicopters developed rather at a steady level, just down from 6.3 billion euros in 2013 to 6.2 billion euros in 2020.
Outlook of the global helicopter market
While the number of helicopters sold annually experienced a declining development over the recent years, the overall fleet size is expected to grow over the medium- to long-term. The growth of the global helicopter market size is expected to reach over 68 billion U.S. dollars by 2027. During a survey in 2019, 24 percent of the respondents stated that they plan to buy commercial helicopters for the emergency services and search and rescue sector. On the other hand, 25 percent of respondents revealed that their helicopter purchases are for corporate purposes. Over the next 20 years, about 61,000 new pilots will be needed in the civil helicopter industry worldwide.
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Research expert covering transportation and electronics