UK charter firm buys SW4s

 - September 25, 2008, 10:01 AM

Biggin Hill, UK-based helicopter charter operator Sky Charter has been designated the UK dealer for PZL Swidnik rotorcraft. The company has ordered three SW4 light singles and is expecting deliveries next spring.

Gary Slater, Sky Charter’s managing director, sees the EASA-certified five-seater as a low-cost alternative to the Eurocopter EC 120 and the Bell 206B3 JetRanger. “It challenges the JetRanger with better performance and is cheaper,” he said. Slater praised the large baggage compartment, which is able to accommodate four sets of golf clubs. He also emphasized the openness of the cabin. The SW4 has an endurance of 5.6 hours, compared with the three hours of the LongRanger. Cruise speed, at 125 knots, is about 15 knots faster. Seats comply with the latest crashworthiness standards.

Slater said the SW4 is priced at £750,000 ($1.5 million), versus £1 million ($2 million) for the Jet-Ranger. Fuel burn is estimated at 26 U.S. gallons per hour. The three-blade main rotor and the two-blade tail rotor are powered by a 450-shp Rolls-Royce 250-C20R2 turboshaft. The engine was a factor in Slater’s decision, as Sky Charter operates Bell 206s with the same Rolls-Royce model and is happy with it.

One of Sky Charter’s SW4s will be used for filming, sightseeing tours and as a demonstrator, Slater said. The other two will be for sale. The first delivery from PZL is planned for “late April or early May” and the next two will follow with one-month intervals. Slater pointed out that lead times are short, compared with the long wait customers typically face when they order a new helicopter.

Sky Charter operates 10 helicopters–three Bell 206B3 JetRangers, five Bell 206L4 LongRangers and two Eurocopter AS355 Squirrels. The firm has 15 employees, including eight pilots, and logs 4,000 flight hours annually.