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Growth forecast in India despite drop in registrations

2nd September 2013 - 10:23 GMT | by Darren Lake in Kuala Lumpur

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India faces a number of challenges in continuing the growth of the civil helicopter sector, with the number of registered civil turbine helicopters falling for the first time in 2012.

Speaking at the Offshore/Onshore Aviation conference in Kuala Lumpur, the president of the Rotary Wing Society of India, K. Sridharan, pointed out that ‘India is a helicopter country’, with a number of isolated areas inaccessible by road, making it ideal for a boom in the civil sector.

However, the number of registered aircraft dropped from 293 to 266 last year with the overwhelming majority of these operating out of either New Delhi or Mumbai.

Among the challenges being faced by companies operating in the sector are small fleet sizes with 90% of operators having six or less helicopters in their inventory. A shortage of pilots is also affecting the sector with the majority of retiring military pilots opting to either enter the scheduled passenger sector or looking for opportunities abroad.

Sridharan added that the current civil fleet was not being optimally utilised. Some 75% of civil registered helicopters in India were being used for corporate passenger services with the aircraft only being used for 25 hours per month.

Although offshore services in the oil and gas sector only accounted for 16% of the fleet, those aircraft accounted for more than 50% of the 100,000 plus hours a year. Sridhavan said that on average this part of the fleet flew closer to 80 hours per month. The remaining 9% of the civil registered aircraft were mainly involved in the heli-tourism sector.

Sridhavan said that his organisation predicted modest future growth in the civil sector of around 10% in general but that growth in the oil and gas sector could see a doubling of the fleet as India continues to exploit its offshore oil and gas reserves.

One other sector that Sridhavan said his organisation was also hoping to see further development was EMS. 

He pointed out that some 40% of India’s villages were more than the ‘golden hour’ away from a hospital by road. He argued that while HEMS coverage could save lives, the main challenge to growth in this sector was the prohibitive costs of operating dedicated HEMS aircraft.

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