Quest Aviation Solutions has put plans to develop the Gulf region’s first locally-produced helicopter on ice to take up an opportunity to become sales distributor for MD Helicopters. In a deal announced here at the Dubai Airshow this week, Quest will be appointed as the U.S. manufacturer’s representative in the UAE. It is reviewing a project launched two years ago to begin local production of a Ukrainian-designed helicopter called AVQ.
The MD fleet includes five helicopter types, the single-engine 500 and 600 series, the 530F and 540F for hot-and-high missions and the twin-engined MD Explorer. Single-engine helicopter list prices start at $1.5 million, going up to $6 million for the MD Explorer, which can rise to $7.5 million with optional equipment such as winches or medical refits.
“We didn’t expect to obtain a partnership with MD Helicopters so quickly,” said Mike Creed, commercial and deputy project director for Quest Aviation Solutions. “The contract was signed three weeks ago. We have long-established relations with the U.S. firm [and] this relationship fast-tracks our goals. There are immediate opportunities within the territory.” Plans to set up a dedicated local MRO facility in the UAE are also in place.
AIN reported at the Dubai 2011 Airshow that Quest (Chalet B15) had become a new entrant to the rotorcraft industry with launch of the tandem-rotor, light-twin AVQ helicopter, a $2.95 million aircraft designed in the Ukraine but manufactured in the UAE. First flight for the helicopter, which featured an ejection capsule, had been planned for early 2013.
“We are re-evaluating that project totally since we got this MD opportunity. It came along rather unexpectedly. MD wanted to get into the territory for a long time,” said Creed, who heads up Quest’s day-to-day operations in China, India and the UAE. “I have been pushing to get MD back into the Middle East. It has been out of the region, except Qatar, where it has an emergency medical services [EMS] contract for Hamad Hospital. Two aircraft have been stationed [there] since 2008, as civil air ambulances. The Explorer is doing very well there. We wanted it back in the UAE [where] police and EMS is starting to develop strongly.
“The tail rotor can be dangerous, and there is a lot of running towards the helicopter [during missions],” said Creed. “The Notar [no tail-rotor] technology, exclusive to MD, comes to the fore, as it is not dangerous. The aircraft is also quiet, [a plus] for police and EMS roles, [which] are looking at different ways of utilizing light helicopters for their roles. They've been using big helicopters before, and are now looking for light helicopters, which are sprightlier and a little more operationally viable. That's why they are looking at the [Explorer].”
Quest’s territory will cover the seven UAE emirates–Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah, the company said. Quest Investments Group, the parent of Quest Aviation Solutions, is owned by Dubai’s Al Ansari family and seeks investments in technology, aviation, oil and gas and property and decides whether to invest family money or pooled investor risk capital.