FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
London Air motto: "Invest with a long term focus and always buy the best equipment for the job."
IGA grocery stores, drug stores and a resort hideaway allow robust use of bizjets and helos with 3 AW139s, 5 Learjet 75s, 3 Challenger 605s plus on order 5 Learjet 85s and a Global 7000.
Company AW139s operate to Cat A standards up and down the wild and scenic west coast of British Columbia. Night vision goggles (NVGs) will be standard on the fleet beginning early 2014.
Sonora mission requirements demand a minimum 12 passenger capability, with luggage, under all conditions. Operational safety is a paramount concern and top-of-mind-awareness at LAS. "We operate to Cat A standards—200 ft overcast and a half mile visibility—and this dictates our equipment choices," says Thomas.
"Our resort and charter clientele—including some very high net worth and super VIP individuals—are particular in their requirements for Cat A standards. They'll often check us over and make quite an audit before putting their principals in our helicopters. It may just be a half-hour AW139 charter to Whistler but the client may send an audit team a couple of weeks in advance to do a full audit."
To maximize operational safety LAS maintains the highest standards in terms of equipment support, pilots do recurrent training together annually and night vision goggles (NVGs) are being added to the AW139 MEL (minimum equipment list) fleet this year. "NVGs have many practical benefits," says Thomas.
Rotary Division Captain Mark Robson joined LAS in 2013. He flies both scheduled AW139 ops to Sonora Island as well as a wide variety of assorted ad-hoc charters.
"They provide the flightcrew with a higher level of safety when flying night VFR and will assist in transitions from IFR to night VFR landings. Both pilots will be NVG equipped. With this equipment we'll not only see what's ahead of us at night but we'll also be able to see trees and other obstacles around us."
Captain of the Rotary Division Mark Robson joined LAS in 2013 and welcomes the dedication to safety that permeates LAS VTOL ops and equipment choices. "Our clients like the AW139 and they demand the safety standards that go along with a Cat A operation," he says. "For me the AW139 feels like a mix between a Bentley limo and an Aston Martin sports car in terms of speed, performance and comfort and this is what our clients want and expect."
Pilot opportunities at LAS
When LAS makes infrastructure or aircraft investments it's always with a long-term focus and an aim for the highest quality result. The company's spacious YVR hangar accommodates the current rotary and fixed-wing fleets with room left over for the on-order Bombardier Global Express 7000.
LAS employs 4 fulltime helicopter pilots (3 captains and 1 first officer) and hires FOs with a minimum of 1500 hrs TT, 500 multi hrs and glass EFIS (electronic flight instrumentation system) flightdeck experience. Captains are hired directly, or promoted from within, with a minimum 3000 hrs TT. Hence, for a low time new hire it's possible to upgrade to captain within 4 to 5 years, with typical annual flying of 300-400 hrs.
"The AW139 is an incredibly competent and capable helicopter but you need to understand its systems and know what you've programmed it to do," says Thomas. "But, one of the most important criteria in our hiring process is finding pilots with good customer interaction skills. You can teach anyone to fly but it's the little details, and thinking ahead, that make the difference in effective customer interaction."
Initial AW139 pilot training is accomplished on site at YVR with 7 to 8 days ground school followed by 6 to 7 days of flight training. Recurrent simulator training is accomplished annually, over a 2 day period, at AgustaWestland's MMU (Morristown NJ) facility.
Lifestyles for the LAS AW139 pilots based in Vancouver are quite good with the bulk of the flying—to Sonora Island—on set schedules with few RONs.
Assistant Dir of Maintenance Garth Ryan provides line support for both rotary and fixed-wing fleets. Most of LAS's aircraft are recent deliveries and still under OEM warranty programs.
"We fly about 80% of our helicopter flight hours during summer and, during this period, our pilots work about 27 days per month," says Thomas. "But overnight requirements are rare and crews are usually home for dinner each night. During winter months we only crew a single AW139 because of reduced passenger demand and schedules for the pilots are greatly reduced."
Pilot pay at LAS is industry average for the AW139 with full medical and loss of license coverage provided. LAS pilots enjoy an employee discount at London Drugs stores, access to deluxe accommodations at Sonora Island when they need to RON there and relaxed vacation time during winter months when there is less flying to the Sonora resort.
LAS has 20 pilots (including 13 captains) on the fixed-wing fleet, under Chief Pilot Gary Farn. FOs are hired with a minimum of 3000 hrs TT, 1000 hrs jet or high performance twin-engine experience and 1000 hrs PIC. "We prefer to promote our captains from within and we look to hire pilots who are ready to go to captain," says Thomas.
Dispatcher Daryl Shaw (above) works with Dispatcher Megan Simpson to orchestrate scheduling of rotary and fixed-wing fleets.
While LAS looks forward to early delivery positions on the Learjet 85 the company has been very happy with its recently delivered batch of 5 new Learjet 75s, says Powell.
"The Learjet 75 takes the Learjet 45 and puts in all the attributes we've wished for—lighter weight, longer range, faster climb to altitude and always-on WiFi service. We like the upgrade to the Garmin 5000 avionics suite as well as the additional 150 nm range. The Learjet 75 is cost effective and fast at a relatively low cost per mile."
London Air's Challenger 605s support worldwide charter ops out of YVR with routine missions to Hawaii, Europe and Asia. For ops to Europe the 605s normally tech stop at either KEF (Keflavik, Iceland) or YQX (Gander, Canada) while Asian departures usually are routed via PKC (Petropavlovsk, Russia).
LAS upgraded its Challenger fleet from the earlier 604s to the 605s in order to maintain its goal of operating the newest and most capable equipment for the market.
"Our approach to charter is to be very cost-efficient with the newest equipment and the best pilots," says Powell. "The preference is to operate aircraft no more than 7 years old and to keep the majority of the fleet within factory warranty periods."