Studies: Cargo aircraft demand to rise; light military helos to drop

Oct. 14, 2013 at 4:08 PM
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PARIS, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- There's good news and bad news for aircraft manufacturers in two new, separate projections by Airbus of France and Forecast International of the United States.

On the plus side, Airbus predicts worldwide air freight traffic will grow by an average of 4.8 per cent annually over the next 20 years, almost doubling the required global freighter fleet to nearly 3,000 aircraft.

On the down side, Forecast International says the market for light military helicopters, which more than doubled between 2006 and 2010, is on the slide.

"The trend in annual production in the light military rotorcraft market over the next 10 years will be somewhat uneven, but the overall trajectory will be downward," said Forecast International senior aerospace analyst Raymond Jaworowski.

Airbus made its projection in a report titled Cargo Global Market Forecast. It said a variety of factors will contribute to growth in the market -- world trade, private consumption, and industrial production – and that new cargo freighters by 2032 will be worth about $234 billion to manufacturers. There will also be revenue earned from conversion of passenger aircraft to freighter configurations.

In making the assessment, Airbus said freight carried aboard passenger planes was taken into account.

"Looking forward after a difficult few years, world trade is showing improvements and diverse emerging markets will call for increased flexibility in air cargo transportation, for which mid-size freighters will be the primary means to achieve this," said Andreas Hermann, Airbus' vice president and head of the company's Freighters business said. "This is why Airbus forecasts that the core of future freighter requirements will be in the mid-size category, where modern-technology freighters will play a large part in future fleet replacement and long-term growth."

Airbus said emerging markets are the fastest growth area for air cargo. The Asia-Pacific region currently represents 36 per cent of the world's freight traffic and will increase to 42 per cent by 2032, it said. China is the single largest individual nation driving air cargo growth: 15 percent currently and a projected 22 percent in 2032.

While growth is foreseen in the air cargo market, the opposite is true in the market for light (less than 15,000 pounds) military helicopters.

In its study -- The Market for Light Military Rotorcraft – Forecast International predicted that 1,411 of these rotorcraft, worth $23.6 billion in constant 2013 dollars, -- will be produced between 2013 and 2022, but the represents a declining market.

"Annual production of light military rotorcraft more than doubled between 2006 and 2010, as yearly output rose from 94 units in 2006 to 209 in 2010," Forecast International said. "By 2012, though, production totaled only 180 units, and Forecast International predicts that further decline is in store over the next 10 years."

Production of the helicopters will total 171 units in 2013 but decline to 109 units by 2022, it said.

The projection cites shrinking defense budgets and the end to a number of acquisition programs.

Very few new programs have emerged that would help keep overall production in the market on an upward, or even stable, course during the forecast timeframe," it said. "The situation is especially acute in the U.S. and in much of Europe.

"However, the study does see some regional bright spots in the market for manufacturers, such as Latin America, the Middle East, and South Asia."

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