Milestone Finds Sweet Spot in Helicopter Leasing
Dublin, Ireland-based Milestone Aviation claims to be on track to lease $1 billion worth of helicopters by year-end. The company, created in 2010 by former NetJets top execs Richard Santulli and William Kelly, provides various leasing arrangements to helicopter operators, from lease on new helicopter delivery–the customer chooses the aircraft, negotiates the contract and then assigns it to Milestone–to sale-leaseback.
Milestone’s primary mission is to help those operators that want to bid for major service contracts but don’t have the capital to qualify them for a large helicopter order. While the company’s core market is offshore oil and gas operators, Milestone also supports any operation where the helicopter is mission-critical, such as EMS, firefighting, utility and search-and-rescue.
Although Milestone won’t support armed helicopter operations, it could finance helicopters used for military training if the aircraft remains on a civil register.
“We are not interested in corporate/VIP transport,” managing director Robert Dranitzke told AIN. The asset valuation tends to be variable and, in a downturn, the end user can do without the aircraft, he explained. However, the company could make an exception for proven business models such as the Nice-Monaco link.
The 23-employee firm now has “more than 20” customers and 60 helicopters under lease. It has another 40 helicopters under letter of intent with operators around the world, and “more than 30” helicopters on direct order with OEMs. These direct orders represent “no more than 15 to 20 percent of our overall business,” Dranitzke said. Milestone has directly ordered (as opposed to taking a purchase assignment from an operator) helicopters from two major manufacturers–Sikorsky and Eurocopter–so far.
Dranitzke told AIN that while financing is Milestone’s most successful product, the company defines its success by its partnerships with customers. For example, an agreement with Turbomeca for an engine support-by-the-hour program is supposed to bring more value for the operator. Although it is generating “small revenues,” it should be seen as the first in a series of such deals with OEMs and equipment manufacturers. “Our customers benefit from the advantageous terms we negotiate, thanks to our size,” Dranitzke said.