Hong Kong's Heli Express is buying six AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters to replace its Sikorsky S-76+ aircraft and it will be spending HK$130 million ($17 million) to upgrade and expand its helipad and departure lounge, which is on top of the Hong Kong-Macau sea ferry terminal.

The first AW139 will be delivered in November 2008 and the six on order will replace Heli Express's fleet of S-76+ aircraft, says Stanley Ho, the Macau casino magnate who is Heli Express's chairman.

Heli Express, which on 1 July begins an 18-year lease on the helipad, says it is also spending HK$130 million to upgrade and expand the helipad and customer lounge so it can "substantially increase the frequency of services to meet future demand for cross-boundary services" from Hong Kong to Macau and other nearby destinations.

Construction of a second helipad and departure lounge will begin in the fourth quarter and be completed in late 2008. The existing helipad and departure lounge will then be upgraded by mid-2009, the operator says.

Ho's company controls Heli Express as well as the main sea ferry operating between Hong Kong and Macau. Both forms of transport are important to Ho because it supports his main business - Macau casinos.

Traffic to Macau is forecast to increase thanks to a number of large-scale casinos that are due to open in the coming years.

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Source: Flight Daily News