AgustaWestland has received an order for 2 AW139s from the Ministry of Justice of Cyprus for use in law enforcement and search-and-rescue operations. This latest order follows on from a contract signed by the Ministry of Defence of Cyprus in Dec 2008 for 3 AW139s. AgustaWestland has delivered more than 200 AW139s to date.

Omniflight has opened a new air medical base in Houston TX. It will base a Eurocopter BK117 at the Women's Hospital of Texas campus to provide interfacility support for hospitals within a 150-nm radius. Omniflight will also have a nurse and paramedic based with the helicopter for critical care needs.

Heligo Charters, a Mumbai, India-based helicopter operator, recently took delivery of an AgustaWestland AW139. It will be used to support deep-water oil rig operations in the Indian Ocean.

Eurocopter has opened a new training center near ABZ (Aberdeen, Scotland) with the assistance of Bristow Group, Bond Offshore and CHC-all major operators in the region. With 5360 sq ft devoted to simulators, the training facility will feature the first EC225 simulators in the UK. It will also be used to train Bristow pilots on TCASII. Groundbreaking at the site is planned for April, with opening scheduled for Dec 2009.

Bristow Group has received EASA certification for TCAS II on its Eurocopter AS332 Super Pumas. The operator has installed the system in a NorthSea-based AS332 and plans to equip all its medium and heavy twin-engine helos with the system.

Sikorsky Aerospace Services has signed a $4-million contract with Presidential Airways to provide HUD systems for their de Havilland DHC6 TwinOtters. Installations will be performed by Helicopter Support a subsidiary of Sikorsky Aerospace Services.


Helicopter futures

Over the past few years, the helicopter market has made a noticeable shift to medium and heavy twin-engine helos. With the light and medium-size markets almost saturated with aircraft, manufacturers have been enjoying an onslaught of orders from customers for the heavy twins, and in AgustaWestland's case a triple the AW101.

A variant of the military EH101, the AW101 entered operational service in 1999. Its VVIP variant has most notably become the US Presidential helicopter the VH71 Kestrel. Seating up to 10 pax in a business configuration, the AW101 has a range of up to 750 nm and possesses 6.5 hrs endurance.

Sikorsky's S92-capable of carrying 19 pax-has become popular for supporting deep-water offshore oil rigs. This aircraft's ability to carry more passengers and supplies means fewer trips in a day for the operator.

Introduced in 2004, the S92 has been purchased by several large operators including Bristow, CHC, Cougar and PHI. A relative newcomer in the 11-ton-plus market is Eurocopter's EC225. With the ability to carry up to 20 passengers, it's been a good fit for deep-water oil drilling support.

Meanwhile, AgustaWestland's AW_139 has been selling consistently. It has a solid backlog until 2012, with many orders placed by oil rig support operators, EMS and police depts. More than 100 customers have placed up_wards of 430 orders for the AW139.

Smaller helicopters have also been holding their own. MD Helicopters MD902 has been a consistently popular choice in the EMS and police markets.