Local growth boosts activity at Helidubai

 - December 28, 2007, 7:27 AM

Rapid economic growth in the United Arab Emirates is fueling the expansion of Dubai-based helicopter operator Helidubai. Less than two years after its inception, the company, owned by the government of Dubai, has embarked on a fleet expansion with both passenger and aerial-work aircraft. In addition, it is also striving to help create dedicated heliports and helipads in the burgeoning city.

In April Helidubai will add a Eurocopter AS 350B3 Squirrel to its fleet, which currently consists of two AgustaWestland A109E Powers and one AB412 HP. The newest helicopter will be used only for filming and photography work because company policy is to “operate only multi-engine aircraft on public transport operations, for safety reasons due to the high density of the buildings in Dubai,” marketing and security manager Andrew Masterson told AIN. The company has two more AB412s available and plans to announce a new role for them this year. Helidubai logs some 130 hours in about 150 flights every month. “These figures are consistently growing,” Masterson said. The firm was established in November 2005 and received its air operator’s certificate the following April.

The most typically requested flights are corporate and VIP. The A109s are configured for VIP operations, while the AB412 has room for seven passengers. “We do a limited amount of tourist work, which is growing. But we are primarily a VIP operator,” Masterson added. According to Masterson, the company’s clients include film stars, royalty and heads of state. “In a typical 40-minute flight from the hotel we cover all of the major Dubai developments,” he added. “At least 70 percent of our business is from clients who have been with us from the start,” Masterson said.

So is a young operator owned by a wealthy state and with a need for a high-end image a good prospect for the BA609 Tiltrotor? Not yet. “It is a fascinating aircraft, but for our client base it would not be suitable at this time,” Masterson said. However, he added Helidubai is “open to all options for the future.”

Helidubai currently has four full-time employees–three pilots and a licensed operations controller. However, as the company continues to grow and expand its fleet, it will need more crewmembers. “We mostly operate single pilot so we look for good all-round people who can think on their feet, who have excellent communication skills and, due to our client base, know the meaning of being discreet,” Masterson pointed out. Helicopters are maintained by FB Heliservices at Dubai International airport.

In addition to expanding its fleet, Helidubai is trying to add dedicated heliports and helipads from which to operate. Such facilities are still scarce in Dubai. Helidubai claims to operate the only off-airport helipad, next to the financial heart of Dubai.
The so-called Helidubai City Heliport is open for day and restricted night operations. It is expected to open 24 hours beginning early this year. The Burj Al Arab hotel has the only private certified elevated helipad. “Many of the high-rise buildings in Dubai have helipads; however, these are not certified and therefore not operational,” Masterson added.

Helidubai is in negotiation with a major hotel to provide a new 24-hour dedicated helipad, near the city center. This will be available only to Category A-capable aircraft. The company expected to have the dedicated helipad open early this year.    o