Link will create company with extensive Australian coverage

Australian helicopter operators Reef Helicopters and Marine Helicopters are merging in a bid to compete with non-Australian-owned operators for major national aviation contracts.

The combined entity will have an annual turnover in excess of A$20 million ($13 million), operate 20 helicopters - including Bell 412EPs, LongRangers and JetRangers, Eurocopter AS350BAs and MD Helicopters 500s - and will have a staff of 70.

The two Queensland-based companies will initially continue to operate under their separate names and bases, but the merger will create one of Australia's largest private helicopter companies, specialising in marine pilot transfer, coastal surveillance, emergency rescue, tourism and charter operations. "This merger gives us expansive coverage with bases from the Torres Strait to Sydney, financial strength, a wider range of helicopter equipment and an enormous level of aviation experience and expertise," says Reef Helicopters chief executive officer David Earley.

Marine Helicopters has bases in Townsville, Mackay, Gladstone and Newcastle, and is involved in marine pilot transfers and tourism. Cairns-based Reef Helicopters also operates from Mackay, Normanton, Thursday Island and Horn Island.

Reef operates helicopters for the Australian Customs Coastwatch programme, in addition to working for the Queensland Department of Emergency Services, Telstra and mining and resources giant BHP Billiton.

Source: Flight International