Milestone Aviation Group, the helicopter leasing firm headed by NetJets founder Richard Santulli, closed a new $300 million credit facility yesterday. The company will use these proceeds to acquire and lease helicopters–including Sikorsky S-92s, Eurocopter EC225s and AgustaWestland AW189s and AW139s–valued at $400 million to affiliates of Bristow Group. The credit facility is the largest ever for a helicopter lessor, the company said.
A helicopter air ambulance belonging to Ontario’s provincially funded service, Ornge, crashed shortly after takeoff May 31, killing its four-man crew of two pilots and two flight paramedics. The 1980 Sikorsky S-76A took off from rural Moosonee along St. James Bay at 12:10 a.m. en route to the remote First Nation village of Attawapiskat for a patient pick-up. It crashed almost immediately after takeoff into a densely wooded area less than 3,000 feet off the airport and burned.
Innovation at AgustaWestland, according to Robert Farnese, company market positioning and promotion manager, comprises two elements. “First, you need to have an idea that works,” he told a Paris Air Show audience on Tuesday. “Second, you have to execute that idea.” He then added a caveat: “You must also master the present and have a vision for the future.”
On March 26 this year the UK’s Department for Transport announced that Bristow Helicopters (part of the U.S.-based Bristow Group) had won the contract to provide a search and rescue helicopter service for the whole of the UK. The 10-year, £1.6 billion contract will officially begin implementation in April 2015, and will be fully in place by 2017, managed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
Daniele Romiti, AgustaWestland’s new CEO, says the company needs to adopt a new mindset if it is to improve its capabilities. He summarized the call to action in a motto: “Think Customer,” which he said is embedded in the Anglo-Italian OEM’s “StepChange” program.
AgustaWestland is in an expansive mood when it comes to civil rotorcraft training. The northern Italy-based helicopter manufacturer recently installed a new CAE-built AW139 full-flight simulator (FFS) at its primary training center in Sesto Calende and plans to add FFSs for the new AW189 and AW169 designs by 2014 and 2015, respectively. In addition, the company has recently launched courses in Switzerland and Malaysia, and anticipates future training expansion into the UK and Russia. The Middle East and South America are on its radar also.
AgustaWestland (Booth 7070) has received orders from Russia and the British Isles for VIP-configured helicopters.
Exclases Russia inked a contract for five AW139 medium twins–in a mix of VIP and utility layouts. HeliVert, a Russian Helicopters and AgustaWestland joint venture located in Tomilino near Moscow, will produce the AW139s. The deal is a follow-on to a previous agreement, which calls for one AW139 to be delivered in June. Exclases also has ordered a GrandNew light twin in VIP transport configuration.
Indian business aviation specialist Aviators announced here at EBACE yesterday that it had ordered three Nextant 400XTis, while also revealing that it has been appointed Nextant Aerospace’s exclusive sales agent for India. The first “I” version of the remodeled Beechjet 400 is due to be delivered to Aviators in the first quarter of next year.
Nextant (here on the static display) has hopes for more sales in the country, as 33 entry-level aircraft were delivered there between 2007 and 2011, the manufacturer said.
AgustaWestland (Booth 7070) announced plans last month to open a second final assembly line for its new AW169 medium twin at its U.S. plant in Philadelphia to complement the main line for the helicopter in Vergiate, Italy. Major components for the AW169 will continue to be made to AW’s plant at Yeovil in the UK and this site will continue to provide engineering support, said company spokesman Geoff Russell.
The strong business aviation presence at Malaysia’s LIMA airshow held last month on the island of Langkawi was evidence that the industry’s growth in the Asia-Pacific region extends well beyond China.