The Belgian NHV Group announced on Monday 28th October that it had been granted a UK Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for its offshore operations from the UK. Six of the fleet of helicopters already based at Norwich and Aberdeen-Dyce had been re-registered from the Belgian register to NHV Helicopters Ltd on the British register by the end of the following day: four H175s, G-NHVE, NHVI, NHVR and NHVU, and two AW139s, G-NHVN and NHVP. The grant of the AOC permits the company to continue operations in the UK in the event of a disorderly British departure from the European Union, and was timed to avoid the potential cliff-edge set by Prime Minister Johnson for 31st October.
The NHV Group is a growing medium-size contender in the offshore energy industry logistic support sector. It has a diverse fleet of more than 60 helicopters, including six operated by its Norwegian subsidiary, Airlift A/S, and eight more operated by its Danish subsidiary, DanCopter A/S. The group has expanded its operations significantly in recent years, including a diversification into Africa with three Dauphin IIs based between Abidjan in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.
The company has operated for some time in the UK from its bases at Norwich and Aberdeen-Dyce. Although the company has declined to confirm it, it seems clear that it is planning to open a third UK operating base in late-2019 or early-2020 at Blackpool-Squires Gate. The Italian manufacturer Leonardo SpA (formerly Finmeccanica, formerly AgustaWestland, formerly Agusta SpA) announced in June a contract for two new AW169 oilfield-support helicopters for the NHV group, ‘to perform offshore transport operations in the U.K. and North Sea area.’ Coupled with the series of advertisements which the company ran in April to recruit AW169 flight-crew to be based at Blackpool, this seems the most likely plan. The identity of the customer has not been confirmed, but there is speculation in the industry that it might be one or more of the existing customers of Bond Helicopters in the same region, with duties possibly commencing on 1st April 2020.
Although these will be the first AW169s to be painted in NHV’s corporate colours, they will in fact not be the first helicopters of the type in the group’s fleet as Airlift A/S already operate three AW169s, delivered in June 2017 and leased from LCI Helicopters. The twin-turbine, 5-tonne, 10-seat AW169 has found favour with operators worldwide in a range of roles since entering service in 2015. It is equipped with a full glass cockpit and four-axis autopilot. The type is widely employed in air ambulance and police roles, and increasingly for the offshore transport mission. More than 100 have now been delivered. The fuselages and tail booms are manufactured by PZL (part of the Finmeccanica-Leonardo group since 2010) at its Swidnik factory, and are then completed and test-flown by Leonardo at Vergiate. The two new examples for NHV have not yet been identified in flight test.
NHV, originally Nordzee Helikopters Vlanderen NV, was founded in 1997 at Ostend (Oostende) in Belgium, where its headquarters are still to be found. The company marked its arrival as a major player in the industry by becoming the launch customer for the Eurocopter EC175 (now Airbus H175) in 2014, of which there are currently seven in its fleet, with another five operated by DanCopter in Denmark. The group’s adoption of Leonardo products has been more recent: two AW139s were added in 2015, both now based at Norwich, prior to the delivery of AW169s to Airlift A/S two years later. The remainder of the group’s fleet is composed of AS365/EC155s, AS332 Super Pumas, EC145s, MD900s and AS350s.
The company’s Mission and Vision statement is ‘to become the European helicopter operator of choice.’ It seems to be on the right track to achieve this goal in due course. The company has not commented on its future fleet development plans, which will no doubt be dependent upon the specific contracts it secures, but its modern and efficient fleet place it in a strong position to attract new customers. Its latest move cements its long-term position in the UK offshore market.
Robert Swan, Freelance Aerospace Writers, for Helihub.com
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