Brokers expect a host of new helicopter models, including Sikorsky's S-76D, to bring fresh inventory to the preowned market.
Brokers expect a host of new helicopter models, including Sikorsky's S-76D, to bring fresh inventory to the preowned market.

Preowned: Rotorcraft's recovery

Corporate helicopter sales have been sluggish in recent years, but the market may be waking up

Are sales of preowned helicopters poised to go vertical? 

Like the fixed-wing market, the corporate segment of the rotorcraft industry took a hit after the U.S. economy’s ’08 meltdown and has yet to fully recover. “Executive transport is down,” says Bruce Kantenwein, vice president of Eckhart Helicopter Sales in Grayslake, Illinois. “It’s a very difficult market.”

Sales of medium twins have been particularly depressed because of their comparatively high direct operating costs, says Emmanuel Dupuy, who directs helicopter sales for aircraft brokerage AvPro in Annapolis, Maryland. “A corporate VIP AW139, purchased six or seven years ago [and] with less than 500 hours of total time, would sell now for 50 percent of its factory-new price.” 

But “things have started to pick up a little since the first of the year,” says Kantenwein. Dupuy also reports an uptick in preowned-market activity, especially in the single and light-twin categories. He says the H135 (formerly called the EC135) and AW109 in particularhaveestablished “liquid markets” where “well-priced machines go quickly.” 

AvPro’s entry into the preowned helicopter market is a bullish sign in itself. The international brokerage, which reports selling some 50 corporate jets annually, established its helicopter sales team a year ago. 

Yet no one is predicting a sudden reversal in rotorcraft valuations. So what does an incipient market turn mean for buyers and sellers? Onthe acquisition side, “there are some great deals for experienced buyers,” Dupuy says, as supply still outstrips demand. 

On the sell side, he notes, “You need to have the playbook to know how to address marketing, find the right buyer and not waste time” withdeadend leads. But overall, “the market is becoming much easier to read for buyers and sellers. It’s starting to resemble more and more the preowned business jet market.”

Meanwhile, brokers expect a host of new helicopter models—including Airbus’s H160, AgustaWestland’s AW169, Bell’s 505 and 525 Relentless and Sikorsky’s S-76D—to bring fresh inventory to the preowned market, a prospect Dupuy calls “exciting.”


James Wynbrandt is a private pilot and regular BJT contributor.

 
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