For two decades the Asia-Pacific engine market has been dominated by big turbofans and, more recently, growth in the mid-thrust power sector. But is this all about to change as Asian megacities expand and an emerging middle class drives an unprecedented demand for vertical lift?

The answer is an unequivocal “yes” according to Pratt & Whitney Canada marketing VP Richard Dussault – who sees strong signs of growth springing up all around Asia-Pacific in the small turbine market, particularly for helicopter turboshafts.

“We’ve got 13% of our installed base there,” he says, “but it along with South America is also the fastest growing. In coming years if they continue to grow at the current rate, and we look at the published backlog, then Asia-Pacific will form a far bigger proportion of our portfolio going forward.”

“Generally demand in this sector is very much linked to GDP and infrastructure growth,” Dussault says. “For example, the EMS (emergency medical service) market is very underdeveloped in Asia but they have a growing number of megacities and there is a natural need. There’s also a growing need for helicopters in police, search and rescue and paramilitary roles. Also there is the oil and gas industry and a growing number of VIP applications.

“With the sheer growth of cities in countries like China, Malaysia and elsewhere will come potential for the greater general use of helicopters,” he says.

The fleet of P&WC turboshaft engines in the region has doubled in 12 years, and now stands at 1,900 against 830 in 2000. Now representing 23% of the company’s overall turbine fleet of around 6,300 turbines in Asia-Pacific, the turboshaft engine category is expected to expand with the debut of a new wave of P&WC-powered helicopters. These include the Bell 412EPI, first deliveries of which began late in 2013, alongside the Sikorsky S-76D which made its long-awaited entry into service in December. The Airbus Helicopters EC175 was certified in January 2014 and is poised for service entry soon.

Another new model with potential in the region is AgustaWestland’s AW169. “We are in certification testing of the PW210A engine and should certify all the mechanical components by mid-year,” Dussault says. Work with AgustaWestland to certify engine control software is expected to wrap up with certification and initial deliveries starting by year-end. The PW210E variant for the Airbus Helicopters X4, a Dauphin replacement project targeted for 2017, is “about to run in the test cell in Montreal,” Dussault adds. Later this year P&WC also plans to run the first upgraded PT6C-67A turboshaft for the AgustaWestland 609 tiltrotor – which is now scheduled for certification in 2016.