By Bill Stansbeary,
Helicopters are designed for vertical takeoffs, and the helicopter business is now going up rapidly. Civilian helicopter shipments for the year 2005 set new records with a total of 1,370 units, including large twins, intermediate, light twins, single turbine and pistons. Sale contracts totaling over $620 million were announced at Heli-Expo 2006, held at the Dallas Convention Center February 26-28.
Beyond the numbers, the world of helicopter flights ranges over the full spectrum of human activities. Helicopters have a strong presence in offshore oil drilling, air taxi, air medical, law enforcement and utility flights. Helicopters are also flown on pipeline patrol, fire control, forestry, photography, ranch work, fish spotting, geological support, sightseeing, news, record setting and grand touring flights.
Robinson Helicopter Company leads with piston helicopter sales and Eurocopter leads in turbine helicopter sales. Bell still leads the fleet size with 5,122 helicopters in the United States.
MD Helicopters has a new management team in place with Lynn Tilton, CEO of Patriarch Partners, also now chairman of the board at MDHI. Committed to the upgrade of safety features suggested by the FAA, MD Helicopters include wire cutters Terrain Awareness and Warning System and Health Usage Monitoring Systems. The MD Explorer features the unique NOTAR (no tail rotor) system for torque control.
Helicopter market values are approaching new heights. Eurocopter recently set a new record for landing an AStar AS350 B3 single turbine engine helicopter at the top of the world on Mount Everest at 29,035 ft. This record was made with a series production aircraft, rented from a customer, and will never be beaten since there is no other higher terrain on earth.