Supporting the burgeoning development of wind farms is the next big growth opportunity in the offshore helicopter transportation market, according to Eurocopter UK managing director Markus Steinke. He estimates that by 2020 there will be demand for at least 20 helicopters to be flying to and from offshore wind turbines in the UK sector of the North Sea alone.
Rotorcraft have been busy providing access to repair the unmanned wind turbines for several years in the Danish sector of the North Sea. This activity is now spreading quickly into other parts of the North Sea and into the neighboring Baltic Sea.
At face value, the task of taking engineers out to the wind turbines and winching them down onto small access platforms is even more challenging than landing on oil rigs. But Danish operators flying aircraft such as the EC135 have been perfecting safe winching techniques for several years and Steinke is convinced this will become a growing activity for Eurocopter operators. One possible development would be the use of offshore platforms to serve as staging posts for short hops between the wind farms.