India’s Pawan Hans Helicopters (PHHL), a government enterprise that claims to be the largest helicopter operator in the country’s civil and parapublic market, signed a $9.8 million contract for three AS 350B3 Ecureuils in June.
Chairman and managing director R. K. Tyagi told AIN the company expects delivery of the helicopters around August or September next year.
According to Tyagi, “The market is growing and we are accordingly increasing fleet size to meet new requirements.” The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation India predicts a surge in helicopter services in the country in the next two years.
Pawan Hans currently operates a fleet of 36 helicopters comprising 18 SA 365N Dauphins, nine AS 365N3 Dauphins, three Bell 206L4 LongRangers, four Bell 407s and two Mi-172s.
The company is venturing into operating heliports in metropolitan areas across the country. The Indian government has designated 25 acres in North Delhi for construction and operation of a heliport. It has also allocated two acres for a helipad near the Commonwealth Games village to facilitate the Commonwealth Games and for disaster response.
Pawan Hans is also adding seaplane, search-and-rescue and fixed-wing operations, according to Tyagi. “We are exploring intra-city airport helicopter [links] and medical evacuation operations,” he said.
The company has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state Government of Gujarat to connect important tourist/pilgrim destinations. Pawan Hans has plans to diversify its operations in other states such as Himachal Pradesh, Southern India and Goa. In addition, PHHL recently deployed one Bell 206L4 for hotline washing of transmission-line insulators for Power Grid of India.
PHHL began operations in 1986 to provide helicopter support to the oil sector, service in hilly and inaccessible areas and charter flights for the promotion of travel and tourism.
Although the company has seen an increase in flying hours–up 24 percent from FY2007-2008 to FY2008-2009–and an increase in revenue, it faces several challenges. Like the rest of the Indian aviation industry, Pawan Hans must contend with a shortage of pilots. It signed an agreement last year with the Indian Air Force (IAF) to recruit helicopter pilots nearing the end of their IAF flying career to fly for the company until they reach age 65, and in June this year it signed a similar agreement with the Indian Navy.
In Mumbai last year the company established the region’s largest integrated maintenance, repair and overhaul center at a cost of $5.5 million, a move it says is reducing the cost of maintenance by 60 percent. The facility is a Eurocopter- authorized maintenance center and provides support for the manufacturer’s Southeast Asian fleet. All periodic-inspection and overhaul work is carried out in-house.