Bristow Group, one of the world's largest helicopter operators, believes it will be able to return its 16 grounded Eurocopter EC225s to service by "spring or early summer" using an interim fix developed by the airframer.

The Texas-based company, which has operations across the globe including in the UK, disclosed the move during a third-quarter earnings call on 5 February.

Bill Chiles, president and chief executive of Bristow, says he is "pretty confident" over the "interim solution" to the issue that has restricted operations of the type since a North Sea ditching involving an EC225 in October.

He points out that as a longer-term fix to the shaft-cracking problem could take up to a year and a half to implement, it "will find a way to safely fly these helicopters" through reduced inspection intervals and increased monitoring of the type's vibration detection system.

To cope with the grounding, which has particularly affected its North Sea operations in the UK and Norway, Bristow has brought several older aircraft out of retirement. It also plans to add the first Sikorsky S-92s from its November 2012 order for 10 of the type to its operation in the region from mid-2013.

In the UK, Bristow is one of the two shortlisted bidders for the Department for Transport's long-running search and rescue contest. It confirms that if successful in its bid, it will offer the AgustaWestland AW189 for at least one part of the requirement.

Additionally, examination of the operator's fleet plan indicates the addition of 10 Sikorsky S-76D medium helicopters to its orderbook, along with 16 options. However, neither Bristow nor Sikorsky were immediately available to confirm the deal.

For the three months to 31 December, net income stood at $36.3 million on turnover of $326 million, against 2011's figures of $290 million and $25.5 million respectively. Nine-month turnover was $960 million, generating net income of $89.7 million, compared with $856 million and $49.2 million in the prior year.

Source: Flight International