HeliFlite Shares is expanding in the northeast USA, increasing its fractional ownership fleet from one to four Bell 430s. A second fractionally-owned helicopter has entered service and a third will be added by the end of July.

Also this month, HeliFlite will add an ex-company-owned 430 for use as a core aircraft, says president Mark Ozenick. Fractional operators use the core fleet to supplement customer-owned aircraft and meet availability guarantees.

HeliFlite's fortunes have improved since its operations moved from Texas to the northeast USA last year. Ozenick says the company is preparing to relaunch in Dallas/Fort Worth, but will begin by offering charter services using a Eurocopter AS350. "The 430 is too much for Texas. That's a day, VFR [visual flight rules], single-engine market," he says. The plan is to develop a customer's charter use to the level where buying a fractional share makes sense.

The Bell 430 is a twin-engined instrument flight rules aircraft, which suits the northeast USA, he says, while the helicopter's smooth ride and lower costs make it competitive against the S-76, offered by the New York-based Sikorsky Shares fractional programme. Sikorsky Shares operates two S-76Bs and one S-76C+.

HeliFlite's expansion follows a new financing round which raised additional private equity, giving it the "financial horsepower" to acquire more aircraft, says Ozenick. The company plans to expand cautiously and to begin operating in a second region within a year. He confirms HeliFlite is still looking at the Los Angeles basin, as well as central/southern Florida.

Another fractional programme in northeast USA is also expanding. From 1 August, Connecticut-based CitationShares will increase its operating area to include all of the USA east of the Rocky Mountains. "Our plan is to continue a regional roll-out of a national programme," says CitationShares.

Launched last July as a joint venture between Cessna and TAG Aviation, CitationShares offers fractional ownership of Cessna Citation CJ1s, Bravos and Excels.

Source: Flight International