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Three reasons why every owner needs helicopter management By Charlotte Pedersen, CEO, Luxaviation Helicopters
Helicopters are all about making life easier and more convenient. Whether it’s Elon Musk using a helicopter to investigate a potential UK site for a Tesla factory; a rescue team airlifting an injured hiker to hospital; or a construction team transporting parts across difficult terrain, the helicopter is often the fastest, safest and most efficient travel option. But the management of these assets is anything but easy. With extensive regulations that vary across regions, specialist helicopter crew required in transit, and very different maintenance requirements from fixed-wing aircraft, it’s a niche area. If you don’t have the necessary expertise, it’s very easy to fall into financial and regulatory traps. This year, we’ve seen the challenge of proper helicopter management compounded by the demands of Covid-19. Here, we share three reasons why helicopter management has never been more valuable.
1 Finding a route through quarantines With myriad quarantine restrictions in place, moving crew and rotorcraft to the places where they’re needed has been difficult. You need a management company with global connections to manoeuvre these restrictions and find a solution. For example, one of our operators – Starspeed, based in the UK – has had to take dramatic steps to ensure it can fulfil journey requests, with measures ranging from quarantining crew members for up to four weeks at a time, to using Antonov cargo aircraft to move helicopters.
While we’ve all had to get up to speed on these new requirements, even under normal circumstances helicopter operations are subject to complex regulations – so much so that, if you own a larger helicopter, the regulatory body requires the machine to be managed by a professional aviation company. As an owner, this means either establishing an organisation yourself, or approaching a management company with experience in your model. Management has a fixed cost based on rotorcraft type, hours flown and location, but it’s typically much lower than if an individual tried to do it themselves, as the economies of scale available through a large organisation can result in significant cost savings. With an area as fraught with regulations as helicopter management, it all comes down to knowledge and experience. This is especially clear in specialised environments, such as when you combine helicopter and maritime operations. Flying helicopters from yacht decks is a surprisingly common requirement, particularly during the European summer season. But very few companies have expertise in these areas together or can provide their services globally – which is important,
3 The experience to stay in the air Overall utilisation has dropped since lockdown: business travellers are prevented from flying due to corporate policies, and even medical helicopters have flown less, as there have been fewer accidents. But while activity has lessened, owners still want their helicopters to be available nearby, so they can fly at short notice. For those at a higher risk from the infection, the lower touchpoints and end-to-end capabilities of a helicopter flight mean that, if owners do need to travel, they can do so and remain in their own private ‘bubble’.
At Luxaviation Helicopters, our decades of experience ensure we’re ready to respond during difficult times. For those that are new to helicopter ownership, operation or management, we provide consulting services, giving expert advice to governments; medevac and search and rescue operators; corporate developers; heli-toyacht buyers; as well as supporting pre-buy inspections for helicopters.
2 Keeping up with regulations
20 HELICOPTER BUYER EUROPE OCTOBER 2020
We work in close collaboration with ship management companies, manufacturers and yacht brokers to find solutions for clients. Some owners bring in a helicopter business like ours at the very start of designing their new yacht, so we can advise on how to maximise the space for their rotorcraft. Retrofitting yachts to carry a helipad is also becoming a popular request, as owners seek the ultimate end-to-end travel experience.
For this reason, it’s critical that your management company has the experience to keep your helicopter operational. This means scheduling maintenance and transporting the helicopter to the relevant site on your behalf, so the machine is in prime condition for when you’re ready to use it. And, as noted with Starspeed, it’s also about keeping crew safe and well, so your trip isn’t put at risk – even if that means quarantining in different countries, away from families and friends.
The ability to act globally in times like these is critical. We launched the world’s first ever global helicopter charter alliance last year, with nine members (three of our own helicopter companies and six external partners), totalling more than 100 helicopters across Europe, North America, South Africa, Mexico and the Philippines. We’ve been able to draw on local market intelligence in each region, giving us a ‘boots on the ground’ approach to helicopter advice and management. This ability has proven invaluable during the pandemic, as quarantine restrictions in each region have been changing rapidly.
Along with quarantine restrictions, Covid-19 has ushered in a host of regulatory issues, including social distancing; personal protective equipment for crew; and a higher level of on-board sanitisation.
as many owners tour their yachts between multiple destinations and continents each year.
While our industry is facing the same challenges as many other travel businesses, we’re confident that the renewed interest in private flight options will benefit this niche market for years to come. Secure, end-to-end travel has never been more attractive – and whether you’re new to helicopter ownership, or a veteran flier, it’s never been a better time to engage an expert helicopter management company. I
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Read GA Buyer Europe October 2020 Magazine.