Lease Corporation International (LCI) has assigned several of the new-generation AgustaWestland helicopters that it ordered in February this year and expects initial deliveries to begin early next year. The company, which already has a diverse airliner leasing portofolio, is planning to place fresh orders with other rotorcraft manufacturers, according to CEO Mike Platt.
The privately owned company has yet to name the first operators for its operating leases. Platt told AIN that LCI is focusing on the market for supporting the offshore energy industry as well as other sectors requiring new-technology aircraft, including search-and-rescue and emergency medical services.
LCI’s initial $400 million contract with AgustaWestland covered firm orders and purchase rights for a mix of approximately 30 helicopters from the new AW139/AW169/AW189 series. But Platt indicated that the company is also evaluating other new twins such as Eurocopter’s EC175 and the Bell 525.
“This new equipment has a long useful life, and oil companies are demanding the latest technology in terms of reliability and safety. For this you can’t beat the latest avionics,” said Platt. LCI estimates that there are currently some 9,000 helicopters that are more than 30 years old still active in the market and, in its view, this represents significant potential demand for leasing new equipment.
“There are significant advantages to leasing helicopters,” explained Platt. “If you are buying an aircraft you have to take on debt, and the loan-to-value ratio [allowed by banks] is going down every year and is currently only about 75 to 80 percent, compared with 85 percent, so that high down payments are required and there is no real return on these.” LCI also claims that it can provide shorter lead times for new rotorcraft deliveries without any down payment.