Early next year, Helsinki, Finland-based operator Copterline will restart one of the few scheduled public helicopter routes in the world. It discontinued the flight between the neighboring capitals of Helsinki and Tallinn, Estonia, after the 2005 fatal crash of a Sikorsky S-76C+ (see AIN, October, page 74). The Estonian commission tasked with investigating the 14-fatality crash in August issued an interim report, confirming the malfunction of the main rotor’s forward actuator. Copterline is suing the helicopter manufacturer. The release of the final report is scheduled for next spring.
Copterline is now operating under new ownership and management. “To restart the Helsinki-Tallinn route, we have ordered two AgustaWestland AW139s,” new CEO Jerker Molander told AIN. They will replace the S-76C+s Copterline had been using until the crash. The 14,000-pound-class AW139 is bigger than the S-76. However, Copterline’s AW139s will accommodate the same number of passengers–12–as the S-76. Deliveries are scheduled for early next year and the fall of next year.
Copterline has not yet determined exactly how many of the 18-minute Helsinki-Tallinn flights the company will make each day, but Molander said they will be “frequent.” The company will offer different fares for business and leisure travelers. In the future, Copterline might add routes to Russia, Molander said.
Employing about 40 people, Copterline currently operates seven Eurocopter EC 135s for emergency medical services (EMS). Annual revenues are “less than E10 million [$14 million.]” These figures are expected to double when the company resumes flying the route over the Baltic Sea. Once in full swing, Copterline will have 20 pilots on its payroll.
In the ownership reshuffle, approximately 70 percent of the firm’s shares have changed hands. There are now 16 owners. The main three are Finnish pension fund Ilmarinen; the Icelandic Herlin family, which also owns logistics specialist Cargotech; and former CEO Kari Ljungberg. Mona Björklund is now chairman of the board.