With its oil and gas industry Nigeria has a large offshore support industry, employing a number of established operators such as Bristow and Caverton. The oil and gas business has a growing need for deep-water support, which in turn requires larger and longer-legged aircraft. The increase in numbers of sorties is also driving a requirement for greater air traffic control. A Saab Sensis system is expected to provide low-level coverage for the Gulf of Guinea by year-end.
Despite the growth of the offshore industry, small helicopter operators have found it difficult to get a toehold in the Nigerian market, and many see the oil-and-gas industry as holding back the rise of less specialized commercial helicopter operations. There are a number of reasons for this, including the security clampdown around the capital city of Abuja that prevents helicopter flights. Small operators also complain that they are being unfairly treated the same as the large offshore operators, although Nigerian regulations for commercial flying are similar to those of most nations. However, there are signs that attitudes to Nigeria’s commercial helicopter landscape may be changing, especially with the increase in charters associated with the forthcoming elections.