Lease Corporation International (LCI) has signed a purchase agreement with AgustaWestland in excess of $400 million for a fleet of AW139, AW169 and AW189 helicopters as the commercial aircraft operating lessor looks to be an active player in the helicopter market.

Talking to Flightglobal, LCI's executive chairman Crispin Maunder confirmed plans for setting up a new helicopter division.

"LCI's new helicopter division plans to offer helicopter operators an attractive alternative to buying and financing the purchase of rotary wing aircraft," he said.

According to him, LCI is not exiting the commercial aircraft market but diversifying from the traditional operating lessor model.

"Since its inception LCI has acquired Airbus and Boeing aircraft with a value approaching $5 billion. We are also a launch customer for the Bombardier CSeries and with a 20-aircraft order and options for a further 20," he commented.

"As a dynamic lessor we are confident that now is the time to make this move given the high level of unfulfilled demand for new generation helicopters," he added.


Crispin Maunder, Executive Chairman, Lease Corporation International, Emilio Dalmasso, Senior VP Commercial Business, AgustaWestland, and Michael Platt, CEO, Lease Corporation International. Source: LCI

Maunder expects LCI to be active in a number of markets including offshore oil and gas, search & rescue and aero-medical transport through the fleet acquisition.

"This package order announcement is the culmination of careful analysis and observation of this sector. LCI will benefit from the commonality in design across the AW139, AW169 and AW189 family of new generation helicopters," he commented.

Under the terms of the agreement, LCI has the possibility to switch between the types.

The operating lessor is one of the launch customers for the AW189 model, which has now performed two flights. Maunder said the AW139 model will start delivering in 2013, while the AW169 variant is due in late 2014.

LCI plans to grow its helicopter's business on its successful commercial operating lease platform but will extend its team with the recruitment of helicopter's industry veterans. "The philosophy might be the same, but the management, technical and maintenance programmes are different," he said.

Source: Commercial Aviation Online