FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
VIH Cougar tackles big jobs with tough crews flying larger Sikorsky, AW and Eurocopter helos
Increasing use of S92s, AW139s and EC135s allows this operator to carry out oil rig supply and EMS missions in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.
VIH Cougar maintenance hangar can house 2 large helicopters. Maintenance stands are custom built to eliminate ladders and enhance safety.
The S92 is contracted to specific customers, and can accommodate 2 or more litters, depending on the situation. In life-or-death situations, of course, there are provisions for increased capacity.
The aircraft has a dual hoist system, and can hoist to nearly 300 ft. This eliminates the need to land on a platform—especially important when dealing with a platform that cannot handle the weight of the Sikorsky.
Cormier concludes, "One thing I can say about our company is that our training far surpasses requirements. We aim for proficiency, not simply currency."
While EMS is the primary role of VIH Cougar under existing contracts, the helicopters can be used in various utility roles, especially in the area of hoisting and sling loading.
VIH Cougar Helicopters base at GAO. The airport boasts a 6500-ft runway and will soon have a full ILS.
(Hoisting refers to lifting a load using an internal hoist-and-winch system, while sling loading involves carrying a load from an external hard point on the bottom of the fuselage.)
Lippert says, "Ideally, we would like to see a fleet of 3 S92s and 5 medium helicopters.
That would represent a good critical mass for us. Of course, we are limited to our current contracts, which call primarily for EMS operations, with an occasional need for lift capability.
The President's ban on offshore drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010 resulted in zero growth for us over the past year. Now that the ban is lifted, oil companies are getting back to work—and so are we. We have several heavy construction jobs lined up over the coming months."
In the meantime, VIH Cougar is holding its own in the Gulf, supported by contracts in conjunction with Cougar Helicopters.
The interchangeability of aircraft and crews between the US and Canadian companies—made possible in part by the pilots being qualified in both countries—gives both companies unprecedented flexibility and synergy, unique among their peers.
You could probably call VIH Cougar Helicopters a small wonder.
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 supervisor for a major airline in Charlotte NC.