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  • #61

    IBA Analyses Leasing Arena and Future of Automated Operations

    After the completion of the GECAS/Milestone deal a few days ago, the question still remains, will there be more helicopter lessor mergers or is there still space for more in the market? Kim Seward, Aviation Analyst for IBA, comments “The sector as a whole is waiting with slightly baited breath to see how the oil price is going to impact the civil helicopter industry. The likely reality is that there is going to be some decrease in demand and, even though the rose tinted view on the market will go, we forecast that demand will plateau or only drop slightly. As a result of this, financial players in the helicopter arena might be wise to hold off on bold business decisions until the world energy demand and markets stabilise. It’s not a time to panic but, to answer the question, the space for additional lessors in the helicopter market is waning.”

    When it comes to the future of the civilian helicopter industry, safety is very much the primary focus. Usman Ahmed, Senior Aviation Analyst for IBA, advises, “Despite making huge modifications to North Sea operations, the UK CAA is confident that there are still changes to be made. There is a big focus on attempting to reduce the likelihood of human error such as enhancing CRM (Crew Resource Management) and communication. But ultimately there is only a certain amount of human error that can be removed while there is still a human in the loop.”

    So when will automation become as ubiquitous in the helicopter sector as it is in the fixed wing commercial industry? Usman continues, “Technology such as Sikorsky’s automated rig approach system has highlighted the fact that the removal of the human element of helicopter flying is fast approaching. Despite being very much ‘the norm’ in the airline industry, automated approach systems are a relatively new entity to the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) of rotary wing operators. With operators such as PHI already using the system, and with plans to retrofit the whole fleet, at what point do automated systems become the norm and not having it has a negative value impact?”

    Earlier this year, Kaman, the US Army and Lockheed Martin collaborated to convert the oddly shaped K-MAX medium lift helicopter into an “unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of autonomous or remote controlled cargo delivery”. Although this is not strictly an independent operation, the pilot is just a little further away than is traditional, it does demonstrate the fact that pilots are becoming more and more removed.

    Usman concludes, “One thing is for sure, the time of old-fashioned helicopter flying is fast becoming a thing of the past, with technology at the forefront of market demand. The first full fly-by-wire helicopter is almost upon us, and will be a significant milestone for the helicopter industry. As to the question of automation in the helicopter cockpit, it is certainly something that is not in the too distant future.”


    • #62

      RLC Lease 10 Aircraft from Waypoint

      Waypoint Leasing has announced that it has closed on a multi-aircraft agreement with RLC, the largest privately held helicopter operator in the Gulf of Mexico. The initial transaction includes the purchase and leaseback of 10 helicopters, including the Bell 407 and Bell 206L4, supporting near-shore shelf production of natural gas in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

      “This is a great opportunity for Waypoint to support one of the leading helicopter operators in the Gulf of Mexico, and marks a significant entrance for us into the U.S. market, the largest helicopter market in the world,” said Ed Washecka, Chief Executive Officer of Waypoint. “We think there’s significant long-term demand in this region and look forward to supporting RLC as it continues to grow.”

      Dru Milke, President and CEO of RLC said, “This transaction further solidifies RLC’s balance sheet and will allow us to support our growth initiatives in the coming years. Waypoint has the market expertise, flexibility and access to capital to close transactions quickly, allowing us to focus on our mission of being the industry’s most efficient and customer-focused operator.”

      This transaction brings Waypoint’s portfolio to a total of 95 aircraft valued in excess of $1.1 billion and operating in 22 countries.​


      • #63

        Cougar S-92 Encounters Technical Fault

        A Cougar Helicopters Sikorsky S-92, flight 231, has had to overnight at the Hibernia platform, following an incident involving "vibration through the controls" accompanied by a warning indicator light, according to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB). The aircraft was expected to return to St. John's in Newfoundland.

        ​A Cougar Helicopters S-92

        Cougar technicians were flown out to Hibernia, and determined that the aircraft could not be flown without corrective maintenance.

        At the time of the report, the aircraft was awaiting the arrival of spare parts.

        The Hibernia field is situated approximately 315 kilometres east-southeast of St. John's.


        • #64

          Bristow Orders 17 Airbus H175's

          Bristow Group has raised its total firm orders for Airbus Helicopters’ H175 to 17, and also signed a comprehensive support services agreement for its new seven-metric-ton-category rotorcraft.

          H175 is the new name of the twin-engine EC175. Airbus Helicopters announced at the Heli-Expo 2015 helicopter industry trade show in Orlando, Florida, the renaming of its products to be aligned with the naming of Airbus products overall.

          Bristow will now receive 17 H175's

          This significant H175 endorsement was formalised during a signing ceremony in the company’s booth. It expands upon Bristow’s initial order agreement, announced two years ago.

          “I issued a challenge to the industry at Helitech a few months ago,” said Jonathan Baliff, president and CEO of Bristow Group. “As Bristow purchases helicopters in larger volumes, we look to partner with aircraft manufacturers who will step up to more comprehensive airline-style purchase and support agreements. We commend Airbus Helicopters for being the first partner to proactively share risk and responsibilities and commit to work closely with Bristow throughout the entire lifecycle of aircraft ownership.”

          Based in Houston, Texas, Bristow is a leading provider of helicopter services to the worldwide offshore energy industry. Its current inventory of Airbus Helicopters-built rotorcraft includes the lightweight H125 (formerly the AS350), H135 (EC135) and BK117, along with the medium H155 (EC155) and heavy AS332 and H225 (EC225) Super Puma versions.

          Deliveries of the H175s will begin October 2016, with these helicopters to be deployed by Bristow on oil and gas airlift duties.

          “Airbus Helicopters and Bristow share a long history together, and I am very grateful to open this new chapter in our partnership. Their order underscores the H175’s position as a rotorcraft of choice for oil and gas operations, which offers a cost-effective solution with excellent operational performance, passenger comfort and safety,” said Airbus Helicopters President Guillaume Faury. “Additionally, the new support services agreement with Bristow further underscores our customer support focus for the highest levels of fleet serviceability, backed by the full resources of Airbus Helicopters across the globe.”

          The H175 is the world’s newest super-medium, twin-engine helicopter, bringing new levels of operational flexibility, performance and safety to a full range of mission applications. Since its entry into service for North Sea offshore operations only one week following the first delivery of this helicopter in December 2014, the fleet has performed more than 400 flight hours with availability rates of nearly 90%.

          The H175 has been certified to the latest airworthiness standards, covering both the rotorcraft and the new Airbus Helicopters-developed Helionix® avionics suite – providing increased safety through reduced pilot workload, enhanced situational awareness, improved flight envelope protection and system redundancy.


          • #65

            ExxonMobil to Commence Exploration in Guyana

            US energy giant ExxonMobil is launching its nearly $200 million oil exploration project in the waters off the coast of Guyana.

            The company’s ship, Deepwater Champion, is at the Starbroek Block offshore, according to a government statement.

            The country’s president, Donald Ramotar, was on hand this week to tour ExxonMobil’s office on Market Street in Georgetown, receiving a briefing from ExxonMobil’s country manager Jeff Simons.

            The deepwater drillship 'Deepwater Champion' which is to commence exploration in Guyana

            “I’m quite impressed with what is taking place, and looking forward to going out myself,” Ramotar said.

            The project is slated to be carried out over a 10-year period, with three periods of two phases each.

            The operations include a drillship with 200 crew and contractors; helicopter support, two shore bases and a waste treatment facility.

            Oil exploration is not new for the country on the coast of South America, which first struck oil in the 1980s.

            The country’s government said there was “high optimism” that oil would be found in “commercial quantities.”

            ExxonMobil joins a number of other firms exploring in Guyana’s offshore basin, including Repsol, Anadarko Guyana Co, CGX Energy and Nabi Oil and Gas.

            The move has led to tensions between Guyana and neighbouring Venezuela, which reportedly objects to the offshore project.


            • #66

              Rapid Growth in China's Offshore Market Raises Concerns Over Pilot Shortage

              A rapidly growing helicopter market in China is raising concerns about the shortages of properly trained pilots and mechanics, said Chris Jaran, vice president for Bell Helicopter in China.

              Jaran, who provided a helicopter market update yesterday at ABACE 2015, noted that deliveries to China grew 30 percent last year. This followed a five-year period where shipments to the region grew annually by 20 percent.

              “The really good news for us is the tremendous growth,” said Jaran. However, he added, the growth is highlighting concerns that infrastructure and properly trained professionals are not keeping pace.

              While there are now 655 helicopters in China, he said there might not be as many fully qualified pilots for these machines. To make things worse, many of the helicopters involve two-pilot operations.

              Turbine helicopters account for 61 percent of the fleet, mostly in the light and medium categories. The fleet, Jaran added, is concentrated in eastern China, where the large populations centers are. Central China is slowly growing its helicopter fleet, but few are in the north and western parts of the country.

              The fleet is predominantly focused on multi-mission roles, followed by flight training and offshore operations. China is starting to see the use of helicopters for emergency medical services operations, Jaran said, noting seven helicopters currently are involved in such operations in the country.

              The industry is hoping that China will consider providing immediate flight plan clearances for EMS operations, he said. That is one of several factors that could boost the EMS market, according to Jaran. Others include operations at all domestic airports, approval for all local helipads and the consideration of adding EMS to approved operations for government subsidies.

              Another critical factor for the growing helicopter market in China is education, Jaran said. “This is a new industry with a lot of first-time buyers,” he noted. Customers need to be educated on everything from maintenance to operations and safety.