Bristow Group has disposed of the Bristow Academy and recorded a $6.5 million write down on the transaction as reflected in its financial report for the latest quarter. The buyer was not disclosed, but Bristow did reveal that it received relatively little for the sale—$1.5 million to be paid over four years and unspecified consideration linked to the Academy's future performance. The deal includes all of the Academy’s personnel, facilities and helicopters.
The Bristow Academy operates from bases in Titusville, Florida, and Minden, Nevada. As of earlier this year, it was operating a fleet of 47 helicopters, mostly Schweizer 300-series pistons—17 of which were leased. In recent years, the Academy had operated more than 75 helicopters and claimed the title of the world's largest civil helicopter school.
Initial type rating and recurrent training for Bristow Group pilots will continue at the company’s flight-simulator training facilities in Aberdeen, Scotland, and New Iberia, Louisiana, supplemented by other globally located training centers. Post-transaction, Bristow Academy said, the deal “enables us to compete more effectively and further expand the type and quality of our programs, at a faster rate, so as to better serve our customers.”
Bristow Group CEO Jonathan Baliff said the sale “is an example of the type of difficult decision we are prepared to act on quickly to achieve our goal of becoming earnings and free-cash-flow positive in the next 12 to 24 months. And, after this successful first half, we have the confidence we can do it. But we also know we are evaluating existing businesses that do not currently fit the new Bristow, if their cost structures cannot be reduced.”
The academy was formed in 2007 when Bristow bought the assets of Titusville-based Helicopter Adventures for $15 million plus debt of approximately $5 million. At the time, Bristow said the acquisition would enable it to “execute our growth strategy by helping address the industry’s long-term pilot supply challenge.”
Via acquisitions and internal growth, the academy grew to three U.S. bases and one at Gloucester, UK. At the height of the helicopter pilot hiring boom, it had more than 200 students at any given time and was graduating close to 400 per year. Students were a mix of self-funded private individuals, sponsored trainees from the helicopter industry or related companies, as well as trainee pilots from a wide variety of foreign and domestic government agencies.
In addition, the academy provided integrated law enforcement crew training that included rear crew and hoist training and the use of night-vision goggles, as well as transition training on the Sikorsky Black Hawk and Bell JetRanger. Its military training program was based on the same one used by the U.S. Army at Fort Rucker, Alabama.