Summary of our market study

The French helicopter fleet totals some 1,400 units

France, with key industry players such as Airbus Helicopters and Safran Helicopter Engines, occupies a strong position on the world market. The French helicopter market remains robust, largely thanks to exports. Increased government orders are boosting the market.

Demand dynamics vary: personal use remains limited, while orders from emergency medical services and military demand are linked to national military budgets and foreign sales negotiations.

The helicopter market can be broken down into five main segments: defense, business aviation, police forces, the oil and gas industry and medical evacuation organized by SAMU.

The French military fleet comprises 555 combat helicopters.

The commercial helicopter fleet totals some 900 units.

France has the second largest helicopter fleet in Europe, behind the UK.

The market is also diversifying, with services such as "taxicopters" offered by companies like Ubercopter and BookMyHelo.

The market faces a number of obstacles, however: the limited number of heliports, noise pollution and accidents that damage the public image of helicopters, and controversy over military sales are all holding back market growth.

Helicopter industry players

  • Airbus Helicopters: At the top of the list is Airbus Helicopters, the world's leading manufacturer of civil helicopters. The company has the widest range of civil and military helicopters in the world.
  • Bell Helicopter: an American company, is another leading figure in the helicopter market, known for its innovative designs and advanced technology.
  • Leonardo: Italian company Leonardo is a major competitor in the helicopter market, with a market share second only to Airbus.
  • Safran Helicopter Engines: Leading manufacturer of helicopter engines.
  • Guimbal Helicopters: French SME specializing in two-seater helicopters. Guimbal has targeted the flight school market.
  • NHIndustries: Consortium including Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker, which manufactures the NH90 military helicopter.
  • Heli Union, a Sabena subsidiary specializing in helicopter rental worldwide.

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Summary and extracts

1 Market overview

1.1 Presentation and Definition of the Market

The helicopters are propeller aircraft, used in both the civil and military aspects of aeronautics. The helicopter market can be broken down according to use: the defence , l’ business aviation s, the police forces , l’ gas industry  and oil and the medical evacuation to name the most important ones.

After a difficult period between 2017 and 2019 (there was a 20% drop in deliveries of civil helicopters and a 13% drop in the overall market in 2017 and then in 2019 the market as a whole fell by 15%); the global helicopter market shows some promise. Indeed, after the beginning of 2020 marked by the highly publicized death of Kobe Bryant and the coronavirus crisis, which considerably slowed down the market, a recovery is expected in the near future, i.e. in 2021 or even 2022. The year 2020 should be a year of stability, before seeing the market take off again in the years to come. Franck Saudo, CEO of Safran Helicopter Engines, said "a scenario of gradual recovery" and thought "optimistic about the medium- and long-term outlook". [ La Tribune ]

The French company Airbus Helicopters is the world's leading helicopter manufacturer, their range of civil and military helicopters is the widest in the world and represents nearly a third of the civil and parapublic helicopters in service worldwide. The market is seeing the emergence of partnerships between companies in order to have more weight in the sector: Airbus Helicopters-Avic, Bell-Augusta, etc. [ SME Pact ]

List of charts presented in this market study

  • Temps de vol des hélicoptères commerciaux selon la raison de vol
  • Taille du Marché des Hélicoptères
  • Répartition de la flotte d'Hélicoptères Commerciaux
  • Plus grandes flottes d'hélicoptères commerciaux
  • Plus grandes flottes d'hélicoptères militaires
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Latest news

Sabena Technics opens new helicopter workshop in Provence - 10/01/2024
  • Specialist in civil and military aircraft maintenance
  • Following the acquisition of Aéromécanic in Marignane (Bouches-du-Rhône) in 2020, Sabena Technics moves to the Marseille Provence airport
  • The group employs over 3,000 people at 18 sites worldwide, and generates sales of 700 million euros.
  • strengthened in 2022 by the acquisition of Héli-Union, the supply and maintenance of military helicopters sector representsrepresents more than 450 employees working in Toussus le Noble, Pau, Angoulême and Marignane, and accounts for around a quarter of Sabena Technics' total sales.
Safran offers $1.8 billion for Collins flight orders - 22/07/2023
  • Safran proposes to acquire Collins Aerospace's flight controls business for an enterprise value of $1.8 billion.
  • The acquisition covers 8 manufacturing sites, 7 of which are in Europe (mainly the UK, France and Italy) and 1 in Asia, employing 3,700 people.
  • By 2024, these plants are expected to generate sales of around $1.5 billion
  • The customers of this Collins branch are 63% commercial aviation, 25% military aircraft and 12% helicopters.
  • Collins is committed to generating a quarter of sales from its orders over the next few years.
  • Safran forecasts a 50% increase in engine deliveries by 2023.
  • Safran promises sales of 23 billion euros in 2023 (versus 19 billion euros in 2022)
Safran negotiates its biggest acquisition in five years with Raytheon - 08/06/2023
  • Safran Group in talks to acquire a branch of Raytheon Technologies Corp
  • Potential acquisition of certain flight control and actuation activities (ATA 27)
  • Acquisition value could be around $1 billion
  • Raytheon had sales of $67.1 billion in 2020
  • Safran had sales of 19 billion euros
Safran forecasts a 50% increase in engine deliveries by 2023. - 20/02/2023
  • Last year, Safran invested heavily in the space sector, with the acquisition of Orolia , Cilas and Syrlinks
  • three companies that will enable Safran to rapidly reach half a billion euros in sales in space equipment
Aerospace: Sabena Technics strengthens its position in Toulouse - 16/02/2023
  • Leading independent aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul group
  • Sabena Technics acquires part of Aeroconseil Akkodis (200 employees)
  • 3.500 Sabena Technics employees worldwide
  • Group sales to rise to €700 million in 2023 from €500 million in 2021
  • The group has diversified into helicopter maintenance.
    • Acquisition in 2020 of helicopter maintenance company Aeromecanic (100 employees) in Marseille
    • Takeover in September 2022 of Heli-Union (sales of €140 million with 350 employees. Helicopter operator providing operations for oil companies and operational maintenance for French military helicopters.
Aircraft maintenance: with the acquisition of Héli-Union, Sabena targets military export markets - 20/10/2022
  • sabena Technics acquires Héli-Union,helicopter maintenance specialist, with sales of €150 million
  • The group has sales of 500 million euros by 2021, 3000 employees
  • main site in Mérignac (Gironde)
  • The operator has facilities in Toulouse, Perpignan, Nîmes and Pau.
  • Since 2019, acquisitions of : Aeromecanic in Marseille-Marignane, then AeroTech Pro in Istres.
  • Héli-Union employs 350 people and operates helicopters on behalf of oil companies.
  • Sabena becomes a heavyweight in helicopter maintenance, selling its services to half of the French military fleet, competing with operators such as Daher, DSI and Babcock.

Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

Airbus Helicopters
Leonardo Helicopters
Bell Textron
Safran Groupe
Hélicoptères Guimbal
Heli union
Sabena Technics (TAT Groupe)
Safran Helicoptères Engines

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