Farnborough Air Show

Offshore-Oil Helicopter Market Boosts Simulator Deployments

 - July 13, 2014, 3:00 PM
The continued boost in the oil and gas industry is driving the need for offshore helicopters, such as this Sikorsky S-92, and advanced simulators to train the flight crews.

Irrespective of political turmoil in land-based energy supplier regions, oil and gas exploration and production is rising, especially offshore where drilling technology advances have made extraction more efficient. This is driving demand for helicopters and simulators.

Investment bank Barclays expects a 6-percent increase in spending this year, and forecasts that there will be 25 percent more “deepwater” rigs (operating at ocean depths of more than 1,500 meters) by 2016. Hotspots include the North Sea between Scotland and Norway, the Tupi and Guara reserves west of Brazil, the South China Sea, West Africa near Nigeria, Canada’s Atlantic provinces and the Gulf of Mexico, where production had fallen for four years after the BP disaster but is now increasing at a rate of 150,000 barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

James West, Barclays oil services and drilling analyst, said, “A lot of the growth in global oil production over the next 10 to 20 years is expected to come from deepwater.”

All that drilling requires technicians, who must be shuttled to and from the rigs by helicopter. So ferry services such as Bristow, CHC and Era Helicopters are adding to their fleets as fast as manufacturers can produce new rotorcraft for them. Bristow Group alone is procuring 47 new helicopters at an investment of more than U.S.$1 billion, more in one year than in the previous 30 months combined, according to Jonathan Baliff, who moves from chief financial officer to CEO at the end of July. CHC has ordered 33 new helicopters; Era is acquiring 20 more. Overall, Barclays predicts the oil and gas industry will require 300 new helicopters between now and the end of the decade.

Simulator manufacturers are tracking right behind this boom, deploying new flight simulation training devices (FSTDs) adjacent to the operating bases of the helicopter operators. “For the most part, the oil and gas community requires helicopter operators who provide them services to adopt not only simulation training but also safety management system programs, prudent regulations and improved avionics to reduce accidents,” said Steve Phillips, v-p communications for FlightSafety International. “The challenge the industry faces is how to show many other operators the benefits of these same training and safety programs,” he added.

Training Centers

In June, the first high-end training center for Africa was announced by Calverton Helicopters and Canada’s CAE (Hall 4 Stand C17-19; Chalet B30). The Lagos, Nigeria facility is planned to open in mid-2015 with a capacity for six simulators. It will initially include a CAE 3000 series AgustaWestland AW139 FSTD, designed to address current EASA/FAA level-D regulations as well as the proposed new Type V category in ICAO’s “Manual of Criteria for the Qualification of Flight Simulation Devices, Volume II–Helicopters,” published in 2012 and pending adoption by national aviation authorities.

The largest AW139 operator in sub-Saharan Africa, Calverton has been sending pilots to training sites in the Middle East, Europe, North and South America.

FlightSafety is making its first foray into the Middle East market, a Sikorsky S-92 level-D/Type V FSTD for the Infinity Support Services (ISS) Aviation Academy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. ISS is an aviation-focused business of Alpha Star AviationServices. Training is scheduled to commence in February for both civil and military pilots with the Saudi Ministry ofInterior as the primary client. Atypical of their past business model, FlightSafety will operate the $267 million facility for ISS for the first twoyears.

Abu Dhabi Aviation has signed a contract to build an eight-bay helicopter training facility in Khalifah City.

Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter; Outdoor Exhibit 13) will offer simulator-based EC175 pilot training beginning this summer at its Helisim training facility in Marignane, France, near Marseille. The level-D FSTD features Airbus Helicopters’ new Helionix avionics suite and was built by Spain’s Indra. Airbus also plans a level-D EC175 FFS by 2016 at a location to be identified in North America, citing the rotorcraft’s introduction in the Gulf of Mexico.

AgustaWestland (Outdoor Exhibit 1) and CAE, through their Rotorsim joint venture, are developing an AW189 simulator for deployment in Aberdeen, Scotland, by mid-2015 to support Bristow and other North Sea operators. The first AW189 level-D FSTD, certified recently, is training crews at Agusta’s A. Marchetti Training Academy in Sesto Calende, Italy. Doha-based Gulf Helicopters has ordered a HeliStar level-C AW189 FSTD to support its fleet and will become an AgustaWestland authorized training center and regional hub.


Expanding Global Network

“We are adopting a regional strategy to make training available as close as possible to our customer’s operations,” said Agusta spokesman, Roberto Caprarella. The Finmeccanica company is also expanding its global network with AW109 training in Zurich, Switzerland, and an AW139 level-D FSTD in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, supporting Brunei Shell and other customers.

In Stavanger, Norway, Thales is planning a new helicopter training center, scheduled for the second half of 2015. Airbus and CAE are collaborating on an EC225 simulator to be deployed in southern Norway as well. Also, together with its Norwegian representative, Østnes, Airbus intends to install an AS350 helicopter FFS. Sikorsky and FlightSafety Internationalopeneda new learning center at Aircontact Aviation’s facility at the Stavanger Airport in Sola last September.

In Asia, Airbus introduced the first full-flight simulator in Japan, a level-C device for the light twin-engine EC135 P2+ aircraft. There are nearly 80 EC135s operating in Japan, according to Stephane Ginoux, president of Airbus Helicopters Japan.

Frasca International has announced a dual-qualified Robinson R44/D300 level-5 flight training device for Sichuan Xilin Feng Teng General Aviation Co. in Guanghan City, China. SXFT provides both ab initio and advanced helicopter training.

Bell Helicopter has signed a memorandum of understanding with Suilian General Aviation to develop authorized pilot training for the Bell 206B and Bell 407 models.

CAE has a new S76C++ simulator in Zhuhai, China, at its joint venture with China Southern Airlines and is planning an S-92 FSTD. It will also deploy an S-92 in Rimba, Brunei, as part of a broader government-military-commercial training complex.

In South America, FlightSafety will install a level-D S-92 simulator in São Paulo, Brazil, this year. CAE and joint venture partner Lider Aviaçao are in process of installing an S-92 device, also in São Paulo, and last year launched an S76C++ FSTD.

North of the Gulf of Mexico, Frasca will deliver a 407 GX full-flight device to the Bell Training Academy in Alliance, Texas.

FlightSafety has been fielding a slew of simulators at its helicopter training centers in Palm Beach, Florida; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas–including models for the AW139, S-76D, S-92 (with new Vital 1100 visual system and Crewview glass mirror display), EC135 (Garmin avionics suite), EC145 and a night- vision-goggle (NVG)-capable Bell 212/412EP.In Shreveport, Louisiana, FlightSafety installed a level-7 AS350 FTD with NVG at Metro Aviation’s center.

The first flight simulator for Bell Helicopter’s new 525 Relentless is being developed by TRU Simulation + Training, Textron Aviation’s amalgam of Opinicus, Mechtronix and AAI. The simulator deal was originally signed with Opinicus pre-acquisition.