The growing potential of Russian Helicopters in Latin America

Jan 22nd, 2013

With the conception of Russian Helicopters in 2007, the country’s rotorcraft industry has since risen from strength to strength. Once holding the remnants of an ailing soviet aerospace industry, the success of Kamov and MiL helicopters in particular is reflected by a 27.8 percent increase in consolidated revenues for the group, totalling some $3.4 billion for 2011. This comes amid a growing number of local and international deliveries, with the Latin American market revealing a distinct penchant for the company’s civil and military offerings. While this demand is underscored by the operational advantages afforded by Russian Helicopters, it is clear that sustaining competitiveness in the region is dependent upon both a transparent and effective spare parts aftermarket.

Currently, more than 8,000 rotorcraft of Russian/Soviet origin are operated in 110 countries across the globe. Although Russian Helicopters does not distinguish sales figures on a region-by-region basis, the company has announced emerging demand trends from its Latin American segment with increasing emphasis on its civil offerings. At present, roughly 20 percent of the military rotorcraft in Latin America are Russian-made, while the country has only captured a meagre two percent stake of the region’s civil sector. However, these conditions may be poised to expand as Russian Helicopters harnesses the growth potential of its key markets in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. Last month saw the completion of a $200 million deal between Russian Helicopters and the Brazilian firm, Atlas Taxi Aereo, to supply up to 14 Kamov-62 helicopters for use in offshore oil drilling projects in the emerging nation. This follows recent highly publicised deals to deliver ongoing consignments of military rotorcraft to the governments of Mexico and Peru, in addition to the existing contracts the company holds with neighbouring states.

Even though the presence of Russian Helicopters in the Latin American market is just shy of three years, the company’s entrance is about as subtle as a bull in a china shop

‘Even though the presence of Russian Helicopters in the Latin American market is just shy of three years, the company’s entrance is about as subtle as a bull in a china shop. Evidently, the 250-strong number of Russian Helicopters operating in Latin America is backed by the compatibility of their designs with prevailing market needs and environments. For instance, the light coaxial Ka-226T offers ample seating capacity while being uniquely compact on account of an absent tail rotor. This affords optimal usability on mountains, atop tall buildings and for offshore operations – environments routinely engaged throughout this segment. Moreover, recent years have shown the value provided by Mi-8/17 helicopters to nations of Central and South America on account of their advanced versatility and reliability,’ comments Locatory.com’s Business Development Manager for Latin America, Karla Grauzas.

Further growth is driven by higher than average levels of fleet replacement in the region. Aging rotorcraft fleets across Latin America are incurring rising maintenance expenditures, with expansion-hungry companies looking towards the fuel efficiency and extra capabilities afforded by newer models. The recently showcased Mi-171A2 is the ensuing replacement to the Mi-8/17 family, which itself was specifically tailored to the Latin American market. K. Grauzas states that, ‘Although these are early times, the Mi-171A2’s potential in the Latin American market is undoubtedly robust. Indeed, we have already seen the success of this new model in the Brazilian market. With its advancements giving rise to a new dimension in turbine rotorcraft capabilities, we can envision its usefulness in areas from passenger transportation and search-and-rescue to construction and the combat of drug-trafficking.’

‘For some time now, we have been witnessing an increased demand for MiL and Kamov spare parts from the Latin American segment. Although there were proposed plans to establish a repair facility for Russian Helicopters in Venezuela, the company still lacks the critical provision of local MRO and spare parts providers in the region. While western manufacturers, including Bell, AgustaWestland and Eurocopter have enhanced an all-under-one-roof capability, the aftermarket network for Russian manufacturers outside the CIS remains comparatively lacklustre. To get around this issue, many operators have sought the benefit afforded by e-procurement systems to promote closer inter-communication between themselves and other market players. This in turn allows for the seamless procurement of necessary components, while being assured of their authenticity,’ comments K. Grauzas, Locatory.com’s BDM for Latin America.

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