Flying through

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Bristow wins UK SAR contract

Bristow Helicopters Ltd welcomes today’s (Tuesday 26 March) announcement that it has been successful in its bid for delivery of UK Search and Rescue Helicopter services.
The award of the UK SAR contract to Bristow Helicopters Ltd, which will come into effect in April 2015 and run until 2026, was announced today (Tuesday 26 March) by the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP.

Operating from 10 strategically located bases across the UK, using technologically advanced helicopters, the new service will be delivered by experienced crews with world-class skills, trained, qualified and certified to coordinate and execute SAR operations. Bristow Helicopters Ltd will create approximately 350 new jobs to support the contract. A transition agreement with the Ministry of Defence will ensure continuity of service and experience for military personnel transferring to the new operator.

So, Bristow won the contract. CHC will presumably be feeling extremely annoyed. Bond too, though they have already sent around a press release saying, in effect, they have so many new contracts already they are too busy for this poxy little one.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Where to keep your 300

S300 hangar
As an examiner I often go to the helicopter, rather than vica versa and private owners do sometimes keep their helicopters in rather strange places. This is one I visited at the weekend, his 300 sharing an open front hangar with this sports car.
The weather was pants but we did get enough cloud height to leave his house and fly over to the local strip for the test. The strip is wonderful - shared with horses, though not at the same time - but the approach to the house is even better! Luckily, the owner also has a B206 and has decided he needs more room. I'm grateful! I don't mind doing the approach between the diggers in calm winds but on a windy day or with a heavy load I think I would rather land elsewhere!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Las Vegas to The Grand Canyon

Hoover Dam
Fascinating couple of days. Started with winning $75 dollars from a $20 stake, thanks to the New York Casino in Las Vegas.
Left Las Vegas in hot sun, drove to the Hovver Dam where it was raining - though cleared up for pictures! And finally, drove the long haul to the Grand Canyon where it was snowing.
More later. Including, weather permitting, a couple of rides in various aerial transport.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Last Day at HeliExpo 2013, Las Vegas

Bell 407 with Cobham SAS system
The last day at HeliExpo was as fun packed as the earlier ones.
It started with an announcement that Erickson Air Crane have bought Air Amazonia in Brazil, from the parent company HRT. This is the helicopter division of the oil exploration plant and, as the CEO of HRT explained, he cannot run all the parts of his company brilliantly, so he had to sell some.
HRT have 10 oil wells and will be needing both heavy and medium lift helicopters in the future, for pipelaying, further seismic work, and ulimately for people carrying.
In the afternoon, we went out to North Las Vegas airport and flew the above Bell 407 courtesy of Cobham to test their new SAS system for the New Technology section of Helicopter Life magazine. It is a good system, smaller and cheaper than most, it was designed for the R44, but is now being used for the Bell 407 and a couple of the smaller Eurocopter models.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


The Eagle has won
Interviewed Emmanuel Dupuy from HeliAsset. HeliAsset sell used helicopters and vary from other sales teams in that they sell by manufacturer or model rather than by region. The idea is that all their sales can be done on the phone or internet and that it is better to have a salesperson who really knows the machine he or she is selling than one who you can meet in person.
Most sales are done from New Jersey or Paris and most of their markets are US, Russia or other established markets. They are planning to grow over the next few years.

Also, had an interview with Richard Roller of Power Vamp. Now that is an interesting story. He started in 1994 with buses, and has developed into a 4.5 million £ company. See Helicopter Life Spring issue for the full story.

Table Stakes

The ghost of Schweizer past
Started with a Sikorsky briefing in which the VP admitted that as far as Sikorsky was concerned Schweizer is dead. The company felt that as Schweizer made every part of the 300 it was just too expensive to continue the production line. They claimed that each 300 cost twice as much to make as it brought in. RIP 300. They will continue to maintain the remaining 300s, he said, but we know what bullshit that is: these guys are about to join the Brantlys and Bell 47s in the graveyard. Bye bye Schweizer we loved you well but alas no more.

Marenco Swiss Helicopter
Rather more optimistically, the Marenco Swiss Helicopter continues on its path to certification and use. Watch this space for updates.

We also had the Russian Hour (well three hours actually but who is counting when the food is good and there is free booze). The state of the Russian industry is great. There are new helicopters being made, most importantly the Kamov Ka-62 and the updated version of the Mil Mi-8 the Mi 171A2.
More on all of these subjects in Helicopter Life magazine Spring issue out in April. One of the few still available in print.

Day Two, HeliExpo Las Vegas

Sikorsky S92 in the Shetlands
Day two starts with a Sikorsky briefing on the state of the commercial market, and their place in it.

It then moves on to some further Eurocopter developments.

Bristow Helicopters, shown here on a oil rig off the Shetlands in Scotland, has kept both companies happy with more S92 purchases and becoming the launch customer for the EC175, see below. That is a huge machine.
Lutz Bertling announcing EC175 launch customer

Also, on Day Two I have an interview with Emmanuel Dupuy, MD of HeliAsset in Paris. This company started in 2011 as a spin off from Regourd Aviation. They have leases and franchises on pre-owned helicopters. They are open 24 hours a day, so if you need a heli in a hurry you know where to go.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

HAI HeliExpo No News is Good News

Robinson R44
At the age of 88, Frank Robinson no longer attends HeliExpo but his product will go on for ever, or if not for ever for a lot longer than him. His son Kurt did the ever popular press briefing and, like all the other companies, Robinson had done better than ever last year, the economy and sequestration nowhere to be felt.
Robinson sold 517 helicopters last year, 191 were R66s and they now produce 5 or 6 R66s a week and the same number of R44s. And this is before they get Russian, Canadian or EASA certification. Think what it will be like when they do. That should be soon, we were glad to hear, as the FAA have accepted ELAS on the hydraulics so the exemption has been lifted and other governments will now be prepared to look at the product. More will clearly be coming on this in the next few months.

Mr Gou
Enstrom Helicopters have been bought by Chung Ching China, and the company's Mr Gou signed the agreement to purchase 10 more 480s (they already have 6) at the show. After this the incredibly named Chung Ching China company will buy another 15 helicopters, effectively filling up the production line for the foreseeable future. Training helicopters are clearly dearly needed in China.

The other interesting thing of the day was Scott's Bell 47. While Scott's PR writer suffered a little from hyperbole insisting that the show was all talking about their collaboration with Rolls Royce to produce the new Bell 47GT6, it is certainly a lovely idea, and well supported. This, like other things at the show, will be ongoing for many years.

Day One Heli Expo Las Vegas 2013

As usual the first day at HeliExpo was busy but fascinating, though I would not suggest there is much real news. However, in this case, I would say No News is Good News.

Eurocopter had a good year in 2012. Revenues were up 15%, not because they sold more helicopters, in fact they sold fewer, but because the ones they did were more expensive and because they have improved their customer service side so much that it brought in 40% of the revenue. They are continuing with their ecological helicopter drive and this time 'launched' the EC145T2.
Lynn Tilton, MD Helicopters, had also had a best ever year. This is, she said, because she had finally managed to achieve all the Ps: product, people and process. She always had a good product, but now she had brought in the best people and this led to a good process. There is an element of repetition here, as I remember her wonderful team being praised a few years ago; only then they were a different team.
She has a good shot at the Armed Aerial Scout contract, and she also believes that "this is the year of the NOTAR" and that the MD902 will finally come into its own. At the moment there are around 100 out there, but this is the time to push forward and create more opportunities.
Dress wise, as this is always a Tilton issue, she was wearing an army fatigues dress made by one of her '75 companies'. Someone asked, "didn't it used to be 77?" Or at least 76?
Lynn Tilton and her managers

Sikorsky had had a good year - blimey no one has been affected by the economy or sequestration, how lucky they all are!
2012 profits were up 100 million $s. Oddly, in spite of that Jeff Pino the former CEO got the heave ho, but the new chap Mick Maurer seemed to know his stuff at least and performed well.
Sikorsky are looking at three challenges:
a. The Combat Armed Helicopter,
b. The Presidential Helicopter
c. The Armed Aerial Scout.
They think they have a good shot at all of them. The Presidential Helicopter suits Sikorsky well because they are looking for a basic helicopter into which they can add the necessary software without putting up the price to Heaven. Of course, they will win that one but Agusta only really have themselves to blame for losing the last contract by allowing the price to rocket and not doing anything to keep it down. Perhaps they were stuffing too many brown envelopes even then!

Agusta also had a good year, needless to say, after all what is a prosecution here and there. But it is hard for me to say much more about them at the moment as I fell asleep in the press conference along with the rest of the journos. Say what you like about old Orsi and his fast moving hands but he kept one awake at least.

More tomorrow and in the magazine Helicopter Life out in Spring - late March, early April.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Press Day HeliExpo Las Vegas

On the roof tops a abseiling demo
Good day at HeliExpo. A Bell conference, John Garrison recaped the doing and successes of 2012.

A Goodrich /UTC abseiling demo on the roof of the Encore Hotel. The demo was brilliant and well arranged for the photographers, however finding how to reach the car park on the roof from the Convention Centre was a test of intuition. But, thanks to the power of the voice (I asked lots of people) I found the way.

Also, as I was awake at 3.30 and up and about by 5.30, I took a trip on the Monorail to the Strip and took some photos of Las Vegas in all its nutty glory.

New York Las Vegas style
Paris, Nevada

HAI HeliExpo 2013 Las Vegas

Well here we are in Las Vegas, ready for the 2013 helicopter show which starts on Tuesday, but has a press day today, Monday, to prepare us for the excitements ahead.

Already, Las Vegas has excelled itself. I had dinner in a coke bottle last night ! Well, almost. The elevator/lift (multilingual!) was in a green coke bottle and you ascended or descended viewing The LV Strip through a strange green tinge - I don't say greenish, as nothing in Las Vegas is understated. This was real strong bottle green and you like it or leave!

So, on to the show. Today, a trip to the convention centre, register, see press schedule and then a quick buzz over to the Whirly Girls meeting at the Springfield Suites, to give them my magazines - I am donating a two year subscription to Helicopter Life - and to hear the doings of the year.

More through the week. Hurrah it is HeliExpo again.
Dinner in a green coke bottle