Indian charter provider eyes Eurocopter AS355 to provide merchant shipping services

India's largest charter provider, Deccan Aviation, plans to expand its Sri Lanka-based operation by introducing a second helicopter to provide services to merchant shipping in the busy trade route off the country's south coast. The aircraft will also be used to support planned offshore oil and gas exploration in the region.

Deccan began operating a Bell 206 JetRanger earlier this year to transport tourists and corporate executives, following the government's decision to lift a 10-year ban on domestic helicopter flights imposed during the country's civil war. Deccan Aviation Sri Lanka managing director Suren Mirchandani says: "If our talks progress with the government to develop offshore operations, then we expect to take delivery of the second helicopter, probably a twin-engined Eurocopter AS355, positioned in Galle no later than February 2005."

The east-west trade route south of Galle is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, with more than 250 ships passing through each day. Boats are used to service the needs of the vessels, but Deccan says helicopters can perform the same tasks quickly and efficiently.

Deccan plans to offer mail delivery to ships, crew rotation, parts and supplies delivery, emergency medical services and support. The firm's Bangalore-based parent, in partnership with Bristow Helicopters, provides a range of services to support India's offshore oil and gas industry. Deccan wants to introduce the second helicopter ahead of its rivals to widen its share of Sri Lanka's burgeoning tourism industry, which has seen an upsurge since 2002 when the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels and security forces ended nearly two decades of fighting.


Source: Flight International