20-May-2013 Source: HeliHub.com
British operator Castle Air is in the process of opening a second base at Biggin Hill Airport on the south-east outskirts of London. Given their current location at Liskeard in Cornwall is 250 miles away from the country’s capital, and very much in one corner of the island, the location would appear a logical one to be closer to potential business.
In October 2010, Castle Air started a new stream of income with helicopter leasing with one big customer – AgustaWestland. The initial contract for training overseas pilots started with two JetRangers leased to Tiger Helicopters, who in turn delivered the training from their base at Shobdon. This gradually built up to eight JetRangers, and completed in August/September 2012 with Tiger flying over 10,000 accident-free hours, and Heliflight adding around 200 hours at the tail end of the contract. Closely in parallel, Castle Air also leased AW109E Powers to AgustaWestland for their Operational Flight Training Centre at Newquay – with a peak requirement of five aircraft. That too has now completed, leaving the company needing to find work or new owners for thirteen helicopters.
One imperative behind the opening of the new base at Biggin Hill is to put some of these helicopters and the associated headcount to work. One AW109 has been leased to Rotormotion as a replacement for another Castle Air leased aircraft sadly lost in the widely publicised accident in January of this year. The Castle Air website still has the bulk of the leasing fleet listed for sale.
In opening at Biggin Hill, Managing Director Ross Bunyard is looking to replicate the success and operation they have had at Liskeard. The new base will cover commercial operations, JAR145 maintenance, and aircraft sales/leasing, with the original office providing all the admin and accounting support. Flying operations will see three A109E Powers based initially, and the company has taken on two new pilots for this work. Bunyard is expecting that this operation will soon find its feet and expand, expecting that he will be able to add an AW169 in due course once the type is certified. He also noted that one of the new pilots is rated on the AW139.
On the maintenance side, Castle Air will offer maintenance six days a week with a two-shift system in operation. The full range of maintenance, based around the A109 and B206, will be offered including major overhauls. Apart from the two pilots, Bunyard told HeliHub.com that all those working at Biggin were previously involved in supporting the leasing contracts mentioned above.
Castle Air are in Hangar 525 at Biggin Hill. Telephone number is not yet allocated
The company was started by Roy Flood after he learned to fly helicopters when his driving licence was suspended, and has gone from strength to strength since it was founded in 1979. Initially flying JetRangers and LongRangers, moving into twin operations with the purchase of their first A109 in late 1984 – and the company never looked back and has specialised in A109s ever since. Well-known for its filming work, Castle Air has often been the operator of choice for film/television producers despite the cost of the ferry flight to and from Cornwall. Mr Flood now spends the majority of his time in Florida, and Ross Bunyard runs the company on a day-to-day basis.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com