Among the companies making their debut as exhibitors at Heli-Expo this year is helicopter import and export specialist Direct Helicopter (Booth 3530). The Canada-based company is a full-service shipper of helicopters, and for the past several years has been handling an average of 20 per month globally.
“What we do is right from the actual purchase of the machine, we take possession of it, we disassemble the aircraft, we provide all the specific OEM shipping gear, we insure the aircraft, and either by ocean or airfreight, we deliver the machine,” said company CEO Dave Urban, adding that it then reassembles the helicopter at the end of its journey and presents it flight-ready to its new operator.
Direct Helicopter partners with German cargo transport provider Senator International, which operates a fleet of four Boeing 747s on scheduled flights from North America to Europe and Africa, covering 70 percent of the world. A route to China and Australia is expected to be added this year, filling in the remaining gap. The company has a presence around the globe with offices in the U.S. (Greenville, South Carolina, and Miami); Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary, Canada; London; Amsterdam; Sydney, Australia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; São Paulo, Brazil; Nairobi; Johannesburg; and Mexico City.
“This allows us to actually fly helicopters to our airports, land them on the tarmac, shipping gear is ready, engineers are ready, and we disassemble the aircraft and put it right in the aircraft,” said Urban. “It drastically cuts down on the overall transit times.” Indeed, he noted that the company strives to deliver a helicopter anywhere in the world within 72 hours from the time it is received.
The company, which has facilitated the shipping of 2,000 helicopters, can also dispatch teams from its regional offices to other locations. “I spend a lot of money on airline tickets for my engineers to go out and work, a lot of hotel bills,” said Urban.
It began in 2003 as Direct Helicopter Transport Canada and Urban later incorporated South Africa’s Direct Helicopter PTY Ltd. in 2010, rebranding them as the current Direct Helicopter International and adding the in-house engineering and insurance segments. “Our clients really love that they can pick up the phone and have everything done for them,” explained Urban.
As Urban noted, OEMs are well experienced in delivering new helicopters to customers around the world as general freight, but with deliveries of new aircraft down over the past five years, more used rotorcraft are changing hands, and geographic locations, spurring more business for his company. “There’s just so many used helicopters being bought by people that don’t do this every day.”
While it may be Direct Helicopter’s first time with a booth on the show floor, Urban, who shipped his first helicopter in 1997, has attended the show for the past 18 years.