UK: Longmint Aviation on brink of collapse

UK: Longmint Aviation on brink of collapse

7-Apr-2011 Source: HeliHub.com

Britain’s Longmint Aviation, a group of 5 operators, appears to be very close to ceasing trading.  Longmint includes the following operators

  • Sterling Helicopters – at Norwich
  • Alan Mann Helicopters – at Fairoaks
  • Fast Helicopters – at Shoreham and Thruxton
  • Total Air Management Services – previously at Sheffield and staff redeployed to Sterling/Fast
  • Skydrift – a fixed wing operator at Norwich

There have been a number of issues surrounding these companies, and the current cashflow (or lack thereof) is of crucial concern to the group’s employees.  The monthly salary payment date was moved from 31 March to 6 April, and yesterday brought the now-usual monthly concerns which have been affecting them for many months.  In anonymous (and unverified) postings on an online forum last night, the employees fell into three categories

  • Resigned and left for another job – paid nothing
  • Resigned, giving the required notice – told they could go immediately and be paid in full, but were not paid for some (or all) of their notice period
  • All others were “not paid properly”, implying not as much as they should have been.

If the employees do not turn up for work, Longmint is assuming that they have chosen to leave – which under UK law means that the Government does not pay unemployment benefit for the first six months.  So the employees might as well stay put and take the Government benefits when the company fails, as observers expect.  HeliHub.com cannot imagine the personal dilemma this puts employees in.

Other aspects of the situation of this group of companies is as follows

  • Alan Mann Helicopters lost its operating licence in July 2010  and did not get it back until February 2011 (see HeliHub.com story).  This would mean that the company made zero money from chartering helicopters during that time.
  • Sterling Helicopters lost its operating licence in February 2011 after key personnel left and they were unable to meet the UK CAA requirements by replacing them with suitably qualified individuals.  This has put serious pressure on the company to pay leases/loans on the contracted aircraft when not receiving monies on the contracts they were then unable to fulfil:-
    • East Anglian Air Ambulance with two BK117s – Service has been taken over by Bond Air Services as an interim measure (see HeliHub.com story)
    • Norfolk Police did not intend renewing their contact  for one AS355 anyway  (see HeliHub.com story)
    • National Grid Transco  had three contacts with Sterling with Bell 206s which have since been passed to other operators as an interim measure pending putting them back out to formal tender.
    • Other ad-hoc work would have been routinely undertaken – Sterling frequently supplied a helicopter or two for aerial filming of sporting events.
    • Total Air Management Service won the National Grid Transco contract some years back wtih Schweizer 333s but had various problems with them and

HeliHub.com has attempted to contact Mr Neil Bellis, CEO of Longmint, for an interview but without his response.  The company is owned and run Mr Bellis, his wife Juliet and her sister Lucy Cummings.  The three live together in a very large house quoted some years back by the Sunday Times as being worth £5.3 Million, although the recession has probably knocked a third off that in the interim.  All three, and Cummings’ brother Nick (who runs Alan Mann Helicopters but has no shares) previously all worked together at a property services company called Erinaceous Group plc.  We invite readers to check out this link and take your own conclusions, while noting that the publicly quoted company suffered a “share price collapse” and the resignation from directorships of these three people being forced upon them by shareholders.

The Longmint group of companies also includes the prestigious Newick Park Hotel, as well as other property assets.

The same people were also involved in the purchases of Shoreham and Fairoaks Airports in 2007-08 though a company owned by Albermarle Syndicates.  As part of the purchase process, Mr Bellis apparently promised to fund a helicopter training scholarship for a year in an attempt to be seen as philanthropic.  However, as soon as the purchase went through, HeliHub.com understands that the scholarship fund received no further payments and the airport purchaser denied any deal existed.  Fortunately the scholarship candidate was known to someone else in the industry who put up the cash to ensure their licence was achieved.

Further controversy surrounded the sale of Fairoaks Airport.  Previously owned by Alan Mann, this idyllic Surrey airfield also included a number of aviation companies, from the eponymous helicopter operator mentioned above to fixed wing maintenance, avionics and so on.  In an unusual move, the £42 million deal price was allegedly split into £1 (one pound) being paid by Longmint for the operating companies and the balance by Albermarle Syndicates company Albermarle Fairoaks Airport LLP

HeliHub.com would welcome a statement from Longmint on the current situation which we will be happy to run on this website.

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