Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Sikorsky has taken a step towards launching a helicopter fractional ownership programme by agreeing to acquire New York-based charter operator Associated Aircraft Group (AAG) for an undisclosed sum. The company will become a subsidiary of Sikorsky.

The US manufacturer refuses to speculate on when it might move into fractional ownership, but says AAG provides the operating base from which to enter the market. Based in Wappingers Falls, AAG has four Sikorsky S-76s among its fleet of six owned, leased and managed helicopters, used in charter operations in New York, Washington and Houston.

AAG has the operational infrastructure and charter back-up to provide the service levels required for a fractional ownership programme, says Sikorsky president Eugene Buckley.

The company plans to explore the market for helicopter fractional ownership in New York and the north-east USA, where a large number of corporate S-76s are operated. "It seems a good place to start," the manufacturer says.

The first major US helicopter fractional-ownership programme, HeliFlight Shares, is scheduled to begin operations in April, with delivery of the first of two Bell 430s on firm order. Based in Fort Worth, Texas, HeliFlight plans to have five aircraft serving the Dallas-Austin-Houston-San Antonio area by the end of the year.

The company, which holds options on eight more 430s and has reserved delivery positions for five more, is looking at setting up in the Los Angeles basin, says president Mark Ozenick. A two-aircraft operation based in Denver is also under discussion, he says.

HeliFlight sells one-eighth shares in the 430, providing the buyer with 125 occupied flight hours a year.

Source: Flight International