Helijet proves value of wings and rotors in diverse ops
Pair of Learjet 31As and 2 Sikorsky S76s fly EMS while 5 S76s and 4 Bell 206Ls provide wide range of services from Vancouver base. Remote site support and dedicated EMS are all a part of the mix.
Always on the lookout for new flying opportunities, Helijet runs a fleet of 4 Bell 206L LongRangers on charter and scenic tour activity.
All Helijet S76As are outfitted with Garmin GNS530s and Sandel HSIs. Scheduled service ops often depart close to MTOW, landing with 30–60 min of fuel reserves after a 55-nm run.
On the fixed-wing front 11 pilots (including 6 captains) manage Learjet 31A schedules. Typical fixed-wing EMS schedules involve 13 or 14 12-hr shifts over a 28-day cycle with 25–50 flying hours each month.
Dispatch on EMS launches is usually within 30 min and, while on standby, pilots have access to a fully equipped facility with bunks, showers and offices. Duty days can run up to 14 hrs on EMS missions and, if it's deemed a life-or-death situation, duty can be extended to 17 hrs.
"Our aircraft are well equipped and do everything we ask them to do," says Houston. "Both are equipped with Iridium satellite phones and Universal UNS1M FMSs with TAWS and EGPWS. We plan to update our fleet to full WAAS capability this year with new Universal FMS units."
Maintaining the fleet
Forchuck has been with Helijet since 1986, keeps a reasonably large parts inventory on site, has been happy with product support from Bell, Bombardier and Sikorsky and reports few AOGs. With a team of 14 mechanics Forchuck focuses on scheduled maintenance and component changes and upgraded 2 S76As to S76A++ last year.
StandardAero YVR looks after engine overhauls on the S76As while Learjet 31A engines are normally dispatched to Dallas Airmotive for overhaul. Highest time S76A in the fleet is at 36,000 hrs—an average of 136 flight hours per month over 20-plus years.
Mgr Facilities and Charter Services Bob Claridge and Coordinator Dispatch Bill Blair oversee a team of 4 YVR-based schedulers who coordinate dispatch of EMS and charter flights. "We're constantly developing our personnel and transitioning them up to the flightdecks," says Claridge.
"Last month we moved 2 schedulers into the pilot ranks and we've just promoted a ramp attendant to dispatch. We give people opportunities and have been doing this for years. Almost every ramp attendant we have will become a pilot one day."
Into the future
Helijet has survived and succeeded in the tough world of scheduled helicopter services by running a tightly controlled airline operation and using the scheduled operation as a launching pad for a range of profitable EMS and charter opportunities.
"Selling S76A seats ticket by ticket can be a tough business but having long-term contractual revenue streams we can count on adds stability and profitability," says Hill. "We recently secured an 8-year EMS contact for 3 S76C+s and look forward to renewing our fixed-wing EMS contract this year."
Sitnam, a former commercial helicopter pilot who envisioned potential of scheduled rotary-wing operations in the 1980s, predicts long-term viability of existing services.
"Productivity, high utilization, matching the right equipment to the mission and having a savvy and very capable maintenance department are keys to a successful service," he says.
"We feel there may be opportunities for similar services around the world. Sikorsky S76As have worked well for us and we know the equipment so well that it takes a lot to put us down. As the economy improves we may add S76As to scheduled operations and we're always looking at new opportunities."
Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.