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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Exchange Rate, Strong Demand Spur Small Helo Sales


U.S. manufacturers of small helicopters are seeing sales rise in the United Kingdom and Europe due to the exchange rate between the dollar and European currencies and high demand for their aircraft.

Robinson Helicopters’ fleet has reached the 300 mark in the United Kingdom. Robinson has two dealers in the U.K. and Ireland and may add more soon. Robinson has seen a strong market for its R44.

Paul Schweizer, president of Schweizer Aircraft, said the company sells half its aircraft outside the United States and the "weakness of the dollar has not hurt us." In fact, Schweizer is having trouble keeping up with the demand for its aircraft. "We can’t make enough aircraft to satisfy our customers," he said. The lead time for a piston helicopter is more than one year.

He does not distinguish between the sale of helicopters in the U.K. as opposed to sales in western Europe. "The weakness of the dollar across the board" has affected sales.

Enstrom Helicopters, in Menominee, Mich., said even though the British pound is strong against the dollar and U.K. purchasing power is strong, individuals buy helicopters based on their personal needs more than the cost of the machine or the fuel that it takes to power it. "The relationship of the dollar to the British pound hasn’t made a difference on Enstrom," said Terry Biegler of Enstrom. "Year to year, we are seeing sales are at the whim of the buyer."

Enstrom sells 16-18 turbines and 10-16 pistons a year.

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