FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
Race for oil spurs growth for Thai Aviation Services
Company uses fleet of 9 S76s to provide lifeline to rigs in SE Asia.
Capt Hideya Takahashi (L) and Senior FO Vorakant Surattichai, shown here with 2 S76Cs, are among the pilots based at TAS's base at NST.
So, when I do that, how do I maintain our current level of maintenance activity? As well, the application process for obtaining a work permit for expats generally takes upwards of 3 months.
How we are going to manage this has been a topic of frequent conversation between Senior Engineer Daryl Dixon, the home office and myself. Our change management process will be put to good use during this transition."
Dixon began his association with TAS in 2000, when he came to Thailand under a CHC contract. He later moved on to Myanmar with CHC, but returned in the late 2000s when TAS began replacing older-model S76s with the new C++s.
"We faced a significant learning curve with the S76C++s," he recalls, "but we now see a great improvement in their reliability. We are also operating a 6-ship rotation with 7 machines. This allows us to stay well ahead of the maintenance schedule."
Dixon points out that the S76 falls under a rolling maintenance program, which eliminates the need for scheduled heavy maintenance. Essentially, his facility performs basic line maintenance as well as some component replacement. TAS is not equipped to perform heavier maintenance and overhaul activities.
He says, "As long as you stay on top of, or ahead of, published maintenance requirements, the S76 is an extremely reliable machine. We don't do any heavy maintenance or overhaul work here, but we do keep a respectable stock of spares here at NST. It's always a balancing act between cost and serviceability, but we try to keep ourselves stocked for the predictable. [CHC subsidiary] Heli-One is our primary source of spare parts, and they're very responsive to our needs."
The majority of the expats working for TAS are CHC employees on contract to TAS. Being a Thai company, TAS is working toward a workforce consisting mainly of Thai nationals. This has been a challenge, as Thailand does not offer overwhelming opportunities outside of the military for nationals to develop the specialized skills necessary for a rotary-wing environment.
FO Kanyalak Nattigon (L) and Capt Chatuporn Phuangchingngam set a historic pioneering achievement last year as the first all-female flightcrew on an offshore helicopter support mission in Thailand.
Through initiatives such as the pilot ab initio program, TAS is making a difference. In fact, late last year, the company celebrated a historic moment when it dispatched an S76C++ with the very first all-female flightcrew on an offshore helicopter support mission in Thailand.
The crew, under the command of Capt Chatuporn Phuangchingngam and assisted by First Officer Kanyalak Nattigon, set a historic pioneering achievement for aviation in Thailand.
In a press release commemorating the event, the company noted, "This achievement was a very proud moment for all of us at TAS, and clearly illustrates that male domination of this industry is no longer the case. It demonstrates a significant progression for the helicopter industry in Asia, and helps paves the way for all women with an aspiration for a career in aviation in Thailand."
TAS Flightcrew Training Mgr Andre Lapointe says, "Basically, we're all here to work our way out of a job! At the moment, our pilot workforce is around 55% Thai. We need to raise that percentage while maintaining the standards demanded by our customers—and, of course, by us."
He continues, "Our pilots are caught between the necessity to think outside the box when circumstances dictate it, and all the strict procedural compliance requirements that discourage that kind of thinking. Our more experienced pilots tend to find it easier to find the balance that the aviation environment demands.
In order to give our newer pilots a chance to build PIC time and gain experience, we have a program called 'Pilot-in-command under supervision.' This encourages a more proactive approach toward on-the-job training in the cockpit." When it comes time to recommend a pilot for captaincy, Lapointe makes the final recommendation to Chief Pilot Pongsatitvittaya.
TAS will certainly face some major challenges in the coming couple of years. First of all, the company will almost certainly be transitioning into 1 or possibly 2 new aircraft types in the foreseeable future. Secondly, if Dir of Flight Ops Havas is correct, TAS could come close to doubling its fleet, perhaps sooner rather than later.
Finally, the operator must continue to increase its percentage of Thai employees as required under Thai regulations. It will be interesting to see how Thai Aviation Services takes on these challenges.
Jay Selman has been a contributing writer for Pro Pilot for 30 years. His aviation articles have also appeared in magazines and newspapers around the world. He currently works as a customer service agent for a major airline in Charlotte NC.