Libra Group subsidiary Lease Corp. International (LCI, Booth C3223) has expanded its relationship with Malaysia-based rotorcraft operator Weststar Aviation Services through the delivery of two new helicopters—a Leonardo AW139 and an AW189. They will join a previously delivered LCI AW189, which is already in service. The new medium-twin helicopters will be used to support Weststar’s offshore operations in Kerteh and Miri.
The leasing company also noted that customer Babcock International Group has repositioned two AW139s from its operation in Aberdeen, UK, to Karratha, in western Australia, where they will be operated by Babcock’s Australasia concern in the offshore oil-and-gas role. The two helicopters will join LCI’s 12 AW139s already based in Australia, 10 of which are engaged in EMS operations, including six operated by Babcock for Air Ambulance Victoria.
“Australia is a dynamic market, with huge long-term potential across a range of operating sectors, and has been a major commercial priority for LCI since we entered the helicopter leasing market in 2012,” noted Crispin Maunder, the company’s executive chairman.
LCI, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year as an aircraft leasing company, specializes in medium twin-engine helicopters, and the additions in Australia expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, which now accounts for more than 40 percent of the company’s fleet. It currently has 48 rotorcraft in its portfolio, all but one purchased new, and an additional 21 helicopters under management. Combined with helicopters on order, that represents nearly $1 billion in equipment.
In addition to Australia, the company’s helicopters are currently operating in the U.S., Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and, as of this past year, China, which Maunder describes as an exciting, yet challenging market. EMS provider Shanghai Kingwing, through its operator Weststar, took on the leases of three AW139s. “We see steady growth in EMS,” Maunder told AIN. “Lots of new contracts coming up in Europe, certain parts of Asia and certainly North America as well.”
EMS operations currently occupy nearly half of the LCI fleet, while 25 percent are used for offshore oil-and-gas. The remainder is deployed in offshore wind-turbine servicing, search and rescue, and training.
Maunder has also seen what he describes as limited growth in the oil-and-gas usage, which he believes could be attributed to the replacement of older equipment or the downsizing of equipment. “I think the oil industry has probably pushed the operators too far, and hence you’re seeing uncertainty and poor financial results coming from the larger helicopter operators,” he opined. “That doesn’t do anyone any good in this industry, and there needs to be some rational thinking here as to what we’re all trying to achieve.”