The rarefied deepwater oil and gas market has spawned new players and big deals in the helicopter operating leasing market, but to date these transactions have largely been confined to medium and large helicopters. What will be the impact of leasing on the industry as a whole, especially for smaller operators with light helicopters in the non-oil-and-gas segments, and will it ever become as predominant as it is for airlines, where approximately one-third of the fleet is leased?
Rotorcraft » Rotorcraft Aircraft
News and issues regarding all manner of civil and military rotorcraft.
Sikorsky announced yesterday that it delivered the first two examples of the S-76D, an upgraded version of the medium twin helicopter, to the Bristow Group late last month. The helicopters are equipped for offshore oil and gas operations, a configuration certified by the FAA in October 2012, and are to fly in the Gulf of Mexico.
Helicopter operator Avincis Group and engineering support specialist Babcock International, both UK-based, are in discussions about establishing a joint venture. The talks are exclusive but there is no certainty they will lead to any transaction, the two companies pointed out. The British press has described the talks as a prelude to a likely takeover of Avincis, currently owned by KKR and Investindustrial, by Babcock. However, the two companies dismissed such stories as speculation.
The Turbomeca/Avic Engine Ardiden 3C/WZ16 turboshaft made its first run at the French company’s test facility. The two companies are developing the new Ardiden derivative on a 50-50 basis. Certification by the Civil Aviation Administration of China is expected in September next year. The Ardiden 3C, understood to produce nearly 1,800 shp, features a modular design and dual-channel Fadec. It is to power the Avicopter AC352 medium twin, the Chinese counterpart of the Pratt & Whitney Canada-powered Eurocopter EC175.
The Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) is voicing concerns about national rule harmonization with international standards–changes that the AHIA warns could bring major additional costs but little safety improvement. Among the changes is a proposed fatigue management philosophy that could call for hiring an extra crew at an IFR/NVIS helicopter base, and thus increase a Bell 412’s hourly rate by an estimated 25 percent. Another worry has been proposed legislation that bans piston-powered helicopters from populous areas.
Britain’s CAA has suspended the air operator certificate (AOC) of PremiAir Aviation Services, once a leading executive helicopter charter operator in the UK. The Blackbushe Airport-based company said it expects the suspension to be brief, claiming the issue stems from the age of its pilots in excess of the 60-year limit. Currently, each of them must fly with another pilot who is under 60 when undertaking public-transport flights, PremiAir explained in a statement. The operator has thus launched a program to recruit younger pilots.
In his address to symposium attendees, EASA executive director Patrick Ky reiterated his agency’s commitment to “less but better” regulation in future. A paper written along these lines was to be presented at a management meeting last month. However, the rethink will have to strike a balance between calls for lower-level (more detailed) rules and demands for higher-level rules that leave room for interpretation, he said.
Raising commonality in the way different companies operate the same helicopter type will be among the subjects of the safety review launched by North Sea operators Bristow, Avincis and CHC.
The International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) reformulated its safety goal, from reducing the number of helicopter accidents at a global level by 80 percent between 2006 and 2016 to “Zero tolerance, zero accidents,” John Black, co-chairman of the Ehest (the European chapter of the IHST), said at the EASA Rotorcraft Symposium.
“We won’t attain the IHST’s initial objective but we have to keep the momentum,” Michel Masson, Ehest secretary, told AIN. “We needed an ambitious target, an aspiration, a quest that would motivate all players and gather energies”.
A lack of understanding from rulemakers presents an impediment to the helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) sector, operators told the EASA at the agency’s rotorcraft symposium.
The output of information from regulators tops operators’ lists of concerns, according to Stefan Becker, head of corporate development at Swiss rescue organization Rega. Becker also spoke on behalf of the European Helicopter Association and the European HEMS and air ambulance committee. “It is impossible to read 900 pages in three or four weeks,” Becker said.