The global firefighting aircraft market was valued at USD 9.04 billion in 2021. It is projected to reach USD 15.67 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 6.3% during the forecast period (2022-2030). Aerial firefighting is the practice of controlling wildfires by using aircraft and other aerial sources. Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are among the aircraft employed in aerial firefighting. Aerial firefighters also include smokejumpers and rappellers, who drop into a fire by parachute from various fixed-wing aircraft or by rappelling from helicopters. Over the past ten years, there has been an increase in the frequency of forest fire events worldwide. Due to several variables, wildfires have become more intense and have lasted longer. As a result, the use of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for combating fires has increased. Over time, rotorcraft have become more frequently used for aerial firefighting. In direct attacks, rotorcraft are more effective than fixed-wing aircraft due to their mobility, speed, and delivery capabilities.
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Growing Incidents of Forest Fires Worldwide
Every year, wildfires and forest fire wreak havoc in many different places. However, only a few nations have the necessary aerial firefighting vehicles to prevent such wildfires. A few causes of wildfires are rising summer temperatures brought on by global warming, human-made campfires left unattended, and lightning. Forest fires in each country in Latin America are very different from one another because of the region's naturally varied geography and temperature. According to an examination of satellite data, the Brazilian Amazon forest burned down more than 13,000 sq km (5,019 sq miles) in the first seven months of 2020.
In addition, the second-highest peak in Africa, Mount Kenya, was surrounded by wildfires in March 2019. The authorities put out three fire lines using a crop duster plane. In order to put out the two additional flames on the upper moorlands, teams had been sent by helicopter to the locations. Due to the high temperatures and shifting wind directions, the firefighters had difficulty putting out the fires. The use of aerial firefighting aircraft may have contributed to reducing tensions and bringing the situation under control.
High Firefighting Aircraft Accident Rates
As the aircraft are assigned for rescue operations, firefighting aircraft crashes are more concerning. In general, the subsystems of most firefighting aircraft, which are upgraded copies of older aircraft, are not functioning at their best. As a result, they are more likely to malfunction in hostile situations, with hot air and flames being the biggest threats to the machinery. Such mishaps involving firefighting aircraft may become more frequent due to the lengthening wildfire seasons and increasing intensity. Recent firefighting aircraft mishaps have resulted in the loss of equipment and priceless lives. For instance, in January 2020, while battling wildfires in southeast Australia, a C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker crashed, killing three American firefighting aircraft crew members. The plane belonged to Coulson Aviation, a company headquartered in Canada.
Increasing Use of Helicopters for Aerial Firefighting
Helicopters are frequently used to put out forest and mountain fires over time. Firefighters can build an encircling lane by employing helicopters to drop water from the system's external storage tank on the fire or around it. Firefighters can load water from smaller bodies of water that would typically not be stable enough for amphibious planes to land and take off by employing helicopters. As a result, operations proceed more quickly than with fixed-wing aircraft. Like fixed-wing water bomber aircraft, helicopters do not need to return to the base for reloading. Helicopters are able to quickly and efficiently pour a lot of water, and their activities are not dependent on airports.
Helicopters offer superior protection for passengers because of the bucket's ability to help pilots keep a steady altitude while in the air. Hovering helicopters can drop water or fire retardants on the flames and are more potent in direct combat. Helicopters are now being used by firefighting service providers like Aerial X Equipment for high-expansion foam applications that were previously only possible with ground resources. Additionally, governments favor employing helicopters as a cost-effective choice for aerial firefighting due to the rising costs of owning and operating a dedicated fixed-wing water bomber aircraft.
The global firefighting aircraft market is segmented by aircraft type and maximum take-off weight.
Based on aircraft type, the global firefighting aircraft types market is bifurcated into rotorcraft and fixed-wing.
The rotorcraft segment is the highest contributor to the market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.75% during the forecast period. Various rotorcraft are deployed to help with firefighting missions, preferred for the task at hand and their cost-effectiveness. Helicopters can transport equipment and firefighters, but they can also carry less water and fire retardant than fixed-wing aircraft. For quick initial attacks on smaller flames, helicopters are helpful. For instance, Leonardo's first HH-139B twin-engine helicopter was delivered to the Italian Air Force in December 2020. It was the first of 17 HH-139Bs ordered and is a modified version of the AW139 platform; deliveries are anticipated to be finished by 2021. The new helicopters will improve the Italian Air Force's multirole capabilities, which are crucial for supporting national security and emergency response needs.
Fixed-wing aircraft have a greater water/retardant carrying capacity than firefighting helicopters. Firefighting planes made from Boeing's 747 and 737 have been converted in the past. For instance, Five C-130H transport aircraft from the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency (NDMA) were purchased by Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc. in 2019 and were converted into firefighting aircraft. In addition, Coulson Aviation hopes to expand its aerial firefighting fleet and combat more global wildfires through this acquisition. These planes were formerly employed by US Customs and Border Protection. These aircraft will get new liveries and camera and mission system enhancements.
Based on maximum take-off weight, the global firefighting aircraft market is bifurcated into MTOW below 50,000 kg and MTOW above 50,000 kg.
The MTOW below 50,000 kg segment owns the highest market share and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.45% during the forecast period. This group includes all helicopters and smaller firefighter aircraft. This section takes into account even amphibious aircraft with MTOW under 50,000 kg. Although amphibian aircraft cannot hover like helicopters, they may carry more cargo, which is advantageous for aerial firefighting. For instance, the third of the six Be-200ES aircraft ordered by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations was delivered by Beriev Aircraft Company in December 2017. One Be-200ES air tanker, which can combat fires, and more Be-200PS air tankers, which may be used for other purposes, were ordered by the Ministry of Defense.
The C-130 is a hugely popular large aircraft utilized for aerial firefighting. Large-scale tanks have been added to these aircraft so they may dump fire retardant on blazing fires to stop the fire from spreading. In order to put out big-scale fires at specified places, these enormous aircraft can carry thousands of liters of fire retardant. Aircraft used for combating fires must fly slowly and for a long time. The C-130 aircraft's fuel efficiency and ability to fly slowly and low make it ideal for such operations. The aircraft's capacity for high loads enables them to transport tankers filled with fire retardants. Additionally, the C-130's turboprop engine makes it more fuel-efficient for the same mission at low speeds and altitudes than competing aircraft with turbofan engines.
North America Dominates the Global Market
The global firefighting aircraft market is divided into four regions, namely North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and LAMEA.
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North America is the most significant shareholder in the global firefighting aircraft market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 1.65% during the forecast period. Both the US and Canada experience frequent wildfires, which can be started by either natural events like lightning or human activities like unattended smoking materials, malfunctioning electrical equipment, hot vehicles, or intentional fires. In contrast to 50,477 wildfire events in 2019, there were approximately 57,000 incidents in 2020, according to the US National Interagency Fire Center. Similar to the United States, Canada reported 3,621 wildfires that affected 235,124 hectares of land. Numerous types of firefighting aircraft are used by wildfire control organizations in North America, including Single Engine Airtankers (SEATs), Large Airtankers (LATs), Very Large Airtankers (VLATs), Water Scoopers, and Smokejumpers.
Asia-Pacific is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.75% during the forecast period. In the Asia-Pacific region, the risk of forest fires has increased due to the pervasive use of slash-and-burn agriculture and the extreme effects of El Nio and La Nia occurrences. Due to financial difficulties, farmers in Indonesia and Malaysia frequently employ fire as a cheap and straightforward tool for managing their land. Several wildfires have been caused by this approach, most notably the Indonesian wildfire incident in 2019, which destroyed 329,000 hectares of land entirely. In the area, there have been several forest fires. For instance, a forest fire in China's Sichuan region in March 2020 claimed the lives of 19 people, including 18 firefighters. These factors are anticipated to drive market growth over the forecast period.
Europe is anticipated to grow significantly over the forecast period. One of the largest amphibious aircraft ever constructed is located in Europe. The Beriev Be-200 is an amphibian that can be outfitted for missions such as cargo and passenger transportation, marine patrol, search and rescue (SAR), and environmental monitoring. Since its introduction into service in July 2003, the Beriev Be-200 has led the way in emergency operations worldwide. In recent years, the aircraft's popularity has skyrocketed and ensured a steady stream of orders, which is anticipated to continue during the projected period. Amphibious aircraft's need to handle emergency situations has increased due to the changing environment and the potential for natural disasters. For instance, the terrible fire that hit Europe in 2017 has given the CL-415 aircraft new business options as it successfully contained the raging wildfire in Portugal, Italy, Croatia, and France.
LAMEA region is anticipated to steadily over the forecast period. Helicopters can effectively replace water bombers and amphibious aircraft for firefighting, but the LAMEA region has not extensively used them due to their limited water-carrying capacity. Despite this, governments without the necessary funding to purchase and deploy firefighting aircraft could greatly benefit from integrating helicopters into their firefighting units. For instance, to promote the Black Hawk helicopter's efficiency as an aerial firefighting platform, Lockheed Martin set out on a two-month promotional trip in Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Peru in 2018. In order to combat wildland fires, Black Hawk helicopters can be adapted to carry water and foam. Numerous wildfires have also started in the area due to widespread climatic change. Additionally, the largest wetland in the world, the Brazilian Pantanal, which has experienced more fires this year than ever, is experiencing dryness due to the warming of the North Atlantic.
The global firefighting aircraft market’s major key players are United Aircraft Corporation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Longview Aviation Capital Corp., ShinMaywa Industries Ltd, MD Helicopters Inc., Textron Inc., Kaman Corporation, Airbus SE, and Leonardo SpA.