Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

Bond Air Services is expanding its emergency medical services (EMS) activities with an order for two Instrument Flight Rules-equipped Eurocopter EC135helicopters. The company, a division of the UK's Bond Helicopters, is considering buying up to five new helicopters.

The EC 135 purchase follows its award of an £11 million ($18 million), seven-year contract with the Scottish ambulance service (SAS), to provide "round-the-clock" helicopter provision for the region. The contract is scheduled to begin in April 1999.

The buoyancy of the on-shore helicopter industry in the UK, in particular the EMS market,has spurred the Aberdeen, Scotland-based operator to invest heavily in new helicopters. "This is a developing market and we have to move forward and invest in newgeneration aircraft," says Bond Helicopter's marketing director Peter Bond.

The company, which owns and operates 13 ageing Eurocopter BO.105's, for air ambulance and police helicopter work, is reviewing its options for up to five new aircraft, with a long-term aim of replacing their existing fleet. "They are likely to be EC135s but we are keeping our options open."

Bond Helicopters is a key player in the offshore market, and the push into the EMS arena has been prompted partly by the decline there. A number of significant factors, not least declining oil prices, has led to reduced investment from operators.

"The offshore market is now going through an awkward period. As oil and gas companies merge, exploration drilling will be dramatically reduced, so we have to batten down the hatches," says Bond. The company has recently sold three helicopters and operates 30 aircraft for a number of oil companies.

Recently it was awarded a £54 million contract with British Petroleum to transport North Sea oil rig personnel using two newly acquired Eurocopter AS332L Mark II Super Pumas. "We are going through a period of re-negotiating contracts with existing customers and are having to find ways of increasing efficiency, maximising aircraft and seat utilisation and reviewing different aircraft types," says Bond.

Source: Flight International