UK helicopter fleet drops to 18% below 2009 peak

UK helicopter fleet drops to 18% below 2009 peak

27-Jan-2014 Source:

In a recent statement, Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority has released its annual figures for the fleet of aircraft registered in the UK. Looking specifically at helicopters, there were 1,232 helicopters with British “G” registrations on 1st January 2014. This is 18% below the peak of 1,495 on the equivalent date in 2009.

The graph below shows the situation well. We have not shown the line for “over 15000kg” as it has had a value of zero for 23 years now. Prior to that the British Airways Helicopters small fleet of Commercial Chinooks featured.

Looking at the 5701 to 15000 kg range (green line), we have seen a gradual increase every year for the last ten, and a big jump from last year’s figure of 95 to 110 this year. This size range covers most of the offshore North Sea fleet, except Sikorsky S76 and Dauphin/EC155. The larger fleet is mostly down to increased activity offshore, but a small part is due to the UK facilities – mainly at Aberdeen – providing technical support to other bases around the world. In a number of cases we have seen Bristow and CHC both import helicopters in this size range for a few months for the fitment of particular equipment before moving on to another base within the same company elsewhere in the world.

The smallest category – 1-750kg and depicted here by the blue line – has seen the biggest change, with the fleet of 208 now 29% below the peak of 294 in 2006, and is largely made up of Robinson R22s (159 of the 208 total). sees two reasons for the fluctuation here. Firstly the recession has hit the lower end of the market the most, and secondly there has been a notable move from R22 to R44 as the primary trainer helicopter in the UK. Looking at the R22 fleet registered at 1st January this year, just three R22s were built since 2006. Interestingly the Guimbal Cabri G2 falls into this weight category (Enstroms and Schweizers do not) and the import of four Cabris to date – with a good number on order for 2014 – may see this category flatten off the fall in the graph in the next couple of years.

By far the bulk of the UK market is in the 751-5700kg – a somewhat impractical range to review when it covers everything from single piston helicopters like the Enstrom range through to the Sikorsky S76. The benefit of this ungainly range is that it provides us a view on the bulk of the UK market, with 914 helicopters at the start of 2014, some 20% below the 2009 peak of 1,136. Very few new helicopters have been added to the British register in the last five years, although we are seeing an uptick in activity and expect that any downward move in the overall numbers will bottom out in the January 2015 figures before making a notable move upwards once again. We are still 134% ahead of the fleet total in 1985, after all. The total of 1,232 compares with just 527 in 1985

Jeremy Parkin –


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