A world on the rise
Leonardo Da Vinci is the intellectual responsible for the idea of the helicopter. He made the first sketches of a machine driven by rotors, but it wasn’t until the emergence of the motorized aircraft that this idea regained momentum with the development of an aircraft called the “Autogiro” by Juan de la Cierva, in 1923.
The helicopter is a young invention in the shade of fixed-winged aircraft because at the beginning of the 20th century, the power require- ments were beyond the reach of the helicopter. The world wars, as well as military development pushed the development of the helicopter a little.
In 1946, the used of the first civil helicopter was authorized: the Bell 47, and twenty years later, the Bell 206 became the most successful commercial helicopter ever manufactured and set the most industrial records.
Improvements in fuels and engines during the first half of the 20th century were decisive in the evolution of the helicopter. The appearance of the turboprop engine in the second half of the 20^ century lead to the development of faster, better helicopters capable of flying at higher altitudes. These engines are used in most helicopters, except small models or those with very low manufacturing costs.
As clients’ needs grew, military development reached a peak and the helicopter gradually became a useful tool for society. Therefore, from 2000, aeronautical operators have focused large efforts on civil aviation.
The percentage growth in civil helicopter sales in the coming years will be high due to the increase in the amount of people capable of acquiring these aircraft, as well as the modernness of business. Today, people see more use of the helicopter due to the change in the world of services and it is more acceptable as a useful tool in the world. Also, the rental business of air ambulances, taxis and tourist services is very lucrative.
Today, manufacturers such as Eurocopter keep their market balanced between civil and military sales. In 2005, the brand delivered more than 290 civil helicopters.
Moreover, with regard to demand, one must also consider the petroleum extraction and utility companies, as well as “Fractional Ownership”, which although is a market under test and does not show any significant growth in sales figures, has a reduced cost since the property of an aircraft is acquired by a group of people and is managed by a company.
The public security and medical services mar- ket is in full development and will continue to grow because they are priorities for all Latin American nations and new uses for helicopters are discovered every day.
In Mexico, the use of the helicopter is restricted to the lucky few, but has increased thanks to the presence of companies such as Bell and Eurocopter. The latter is the main player in Mexico and the world with more than 2,350 clients in 139 countries and more than 9,300 helicopters in service, of which 110 helicopters have been delivered in Mexico. The fact that the assembler has a base in our country means that aircraft maintenance costs and pilot training are more economical and the maintenance more effective. Its highest sell- ing models are the Ecureuil/mono y el Dauphin.
Moreover, the specific characteristics of Mexico City, the proximity to the industrial cities, as well the city’s heliport network grows every day and the new air traffic regulations make the heli- copter a very useful tool for those who cannot afford to waste time. Besides the privacy offered by this means of transportation, in Mexico it is essen- tial for a certain sector of the population due to the overwhelming lack of security.
There are almost one hundred helicopters in use in Mexico City; businesspeople and companies use them daily as a means of transport, which places the city as the second city in Latin America for the use of the helicopter, after Sao Paulo.
A disadvantage in the purchase of a helicopter is the delivery times from the manufacturers. If you order your unit, which by the way can be completely personalized from a “Comfort” or “VIP” level of comfort to include leather upholstery to gold leaf, it will be delivered, on average, in a year to a year and a half. The helicopter market has been so successful that delivery times are getting longer; therefore the used market has been heavily developed because there are clients who need a helicopter immediately while they are waiting for a new one, so this is where the used market comes into its own, because many times companies’ needs make helicopters at a higher price rather than wait for the delivery of a new one.
According to Lionel Sinai, of Eurocopter Mexico, moving quickly in Comfort and with total safety, confidentiality and in times required by modem society are some of the characteristics one must seek when acquiring a helicopter, as well as paying an average of between 1.2 and 12 million US dollars.
Most assemblers are consultants rather than salesmen since the useful life of a helicopter may be as much as 30 years, so the purchase decision must by well calculated.
Text: Enrique Rosas ± Photo: Eurocopter