AW139 ops allow LAS to carry pax at fixed-wing speeds to remote resorts

Expanding in tough times, YVR-based LAS adds 3rd AW139, buys 5 Learjet 85s and Vision-equipped Global Express XRS.

Chief Pilot Helicopter Div Dylan Thomas looks forward to delivery of LAS’s first anti-ice and all-weather-capable AW139.

Within the VTOL arena LAS evaluated the Eurocopter EC155, Sikorsky S92, S76C+ and even reconditioned S61s. “We preferred the performance and technology of the 15-passenger-capable AW139, but if it had not existed the S92 would have done the job for us at a cost, however, about 1.75 times higher,” observes Powell.

“The S76 is a proven design and a good machine but it’s based on older technology and would not have met our passenger and baggage requirements. We demo’d rebuilt S61s but they were less attractive in terms of downtime requirements and had high operating costs and heavy carbon footprints.

AW139 performance has been outstanding and the specs we bought the aircraft on have been met or exceeded in all cases.” LAS initially acquired 2 AW139s —in Jan 2006 and Dec 2008—and will use its soon-to-arrive all-weather-capable AW139 to replace one of the older machines.

While Sonora Resort absorbs most AW139 fleet hours, LAS has developed a range of charter opportunities and has been successful in marketing blocks to flight hours in training of other AW139 operators.

“Sonora gave us a launching pad which made financial sense for the service but we’ve done well with charters which are too short haul for a Learjet 45 and we’ve build a good business in direct transfers between fixed-wing and rotary-wing equipment,” says Simpson.

“We’ve also won a number of training contracts which has provided nonanticipated revenue. We’ve trained AW­139 pilots for US government agencies as well as local charter and medevac operators.”

A quick hop across Georgia Straight can be accomplished in just over 0.2 hr aboard the AW139—charter rate C$ 4500 per hour—saving hours of travel time by any alternative. Commute to a power project in the remote Toba Inlet region is just 0.8 hr via AW139 whereas the seaplane alternative, limited by weather, involves a 45-min drive from the nearest floatplane dock.

Commercial air and charter boat options to this middle-of-nowhere location could take 8–10 hrs each way. Looking to the future LAS will deploy its new AW139 to confirm charters during winter months and to service remote resorts and mountain areas including the 2010 Winter Olympic site at Whistler Mountain.

“We have an AW139 charter booked to Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, for Dec 30,” says Thomas. “All-weather capability makes a trip like this much more reliable to book and to cost. IFR airways to Tofino are 10,000 ft.

The alternative to the 0.8-hr direct flight, if icing were a factor, would be 1.6 hrs each direction.” Customers enjoy the LAS AW139 and Sonora Resort experience. Viking Range Founder & CEO Fred Carl, a regular visitor to the remote island hideaway, lands the company Cessna Citation Sovereign at YVR and continues on via AW139.

“We love the Sonora Resort,” says Carl of the Viking Range-equipped wilderness property. “Luxury accommodations, great service and the beauty and remoteness of British Columbia—all made accessible with the impressive operation LAS runs with its AW139s.”

Fixed-wing selection

LAS evaluated the Bombardier Challenger 300 before opting to order 5 Learjet 85s with 2012 delivery. The company felt that Challenger 300 was too close to its Challenger 605/604 offerings but envisions important market opportunities for the new composite Learjets.

Scheduling Coordinator Megan Simpson finds increasing demand for fixed-wing-to-helicopter charter requests.

“We’ll be able to offer nonstop charters anywhere in North America, with a comfortable cabin, and have the ability to reduce costs by tankering fuel,” says Powell. “We also like the new technology and composite fuselage of the Learjet 85 and do not feel that being an early customer will be a risk.

Bombardier has an excellent record at clean sheet designs. They met or exceeded operating cost projections with the Challenger 300 and we think the same will hold true of the Learjet 85.” Meanwhile, the new Global Express XRS, to be delivered in 2012, will offer important nonstop opportunities to HKG (Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong) and augment intercontinental Challenger ops.

Maintenance and scheduling

LAS has put over 1600 flying hours on its 2 AW139s—1350 hrs on the high time machine—at current dispatch reliability of 99.8%. In 4 seasons of operations only 2 trips have been lost due to AOGs. To maximize fleet reliability 2 maintenance technicians are assigned to the AW139s—Production Mgr Helicopter Division Gordon Dale and Maintenance Technician Steven Ustare—and the group subscribes to both engine and airframe programs.

In addition, on-site spares inventories are rather robust, with 5 pitch actuators currently on hand despite OEM parts program participation. “We had a few squawks early in the program but we’ve been very happy with product support from AgustaWestland, Pratt & Whitney and Honeywell,” says Dir Maintenance Chris Lacroix.

Capt Tim Seibert (L) and Dir Maintenance Chris Lacroix are happy with 99.8% dispatch reliability of the AW139 fleet.

“We have the inhouse capability to do all inspections, boroscope engine checks and engine removal—just about everything except overhauls.” LAS operates from a massive new hangar complex at YVR with a hangar door opening height of 44 ft.

This facility will easily house the entire LAS fleet and could accommodate multiple Airbus ACJs or BBJs. As LAS is part owner of the YVR Esso Avitat, fuel costs at home base are attractive and tankering opportunities, with new-generation equipment, become even more beneficial.

Coordination of fixed and rotary-wing schedules is the responsibility of Megan Simpson. Operations typically run 95% charter with just 5% corporate use by the parent company. “Our AW139s are frequently scheduled along with fixed-wing aircraft for direct transfers,” she says.

“This boosts utilization of the entire fleet and works well if a customer is arriving from Los Angeles or HKG via YVR and headed to Whistler or one of the local resort mountain areas.”



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