Private helicopters tiny, but emerging market, supplier says

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The demand for private helicopters in Vietnam will grow strongly in the future, said sales director of Vietnam's first established helicopter franchise, Vinacopter, which targets larger private firms.


Forecasts by Vinacopter show that Vietnam will have around 100 private helicopters in the next ten years, said Jussi Hoikka from the company, an associate of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company since 2008, and current distributor in Vietnam of global helicopter manufacturing and support company Eurocopter.


Vinacopter is charging around US$2-14 million for a helicopter, pretax.


With additional costs for fuel, maintenance and parking, a helicopter would be too much for middle-income earners in the middle-income country Vietnam, Jussi was cited by news website VnExpress as saying in a report Tuesday.


But the target of the company is leaders of large private firms, he said.


According to the sales director, Vietnam's top 100 private firms have enough demand and money to buy a helicopter, especially when it already costs them $2,400 an hour to hire one.


The low development of Vietnam's infrastructure cannot catch up with the economy and many businessmen will have to choose a more convenient means of transport, Jussi said.


He said the helicopter can also be considered an effective promotion and marketing tool.


Vinacopter has finished contracts to sell two helicopters over the past eight months and is expected to sell at least five this year as there are other contracts under negotiation, Jussi said.


The customers will wait two years top to receive the helicopters, depending how modern they are.


He called that a good sale given the current economic situation in Vietnam and the world over.


The company last year ordered only two helicopters last year, including one bought by itself for display.


Jussi does not identify his customers as a matter of the company's policy, but says that they are all leaders of big private enterprises.


One of the first people owning private helicopters in Vietnam is Tran Dinh Long, president of Vietnam's leading steel maker Hoa Phat Corporation, who bought from Eurocopter in Singapore in 2008, when Vinacopter was not yet in operation.


As Vietnam's government doesn't allow helicopters to be owned by individuals, Jussi suggested people hire an aviation firm to manage and operate their helicopters, as many of his Vietnamese customers have been doing.


Vietnam is operating 20 helicopters, and the number is very small compared to nearby countries such as the Philippines with 150 helicopters, Indonesia with 130 or Thailand with 45, Jussi said.


Only two of the helicopters in Vietnam are used by people for private purposes, while 18 others are used for petrol exploitation.

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