US offshore helicopter operator Era Group has booked a $117 million write-down in its latest financial quarter, primarily based on a reappraisal of its Airbus Helicopters H225s, which values the 11t-class rotorcraft at just $4 million each.
Era has nine offshore-configured Super Pumas in its fleet. These have been idle since the April 2016 loss of an H225 off the coast of Norway, operated by CHC Helikopter Services, which claimed the lives of all 13 passengers and crew.
Speaking on a 10 November third-quarter earnings call, chief executive Chris Bradshaw said following the new valuation, Era calculates that its H225s are worth "an average of approximately $4 million per helicopter".
Prior to the accident and subsequent grounding, offshore-configured H225s would have been valued at around five times that figure.
Although Bradshaw says the company is "actively marketing" the Super Puma fleet for sale or lease, it believes that the aircraft will only find a use as heavy-lift utility helicopters, or for certain search and rescue applications.
However, Bradshaw rules out their likely return to service in the offshore sector, noting that Norwegian accident investigators are yet to determine a root cause for the gearbox failure that doomed the H225.
Regulators in Norway and the UK in July moved to lift their final grounding restrictions on the Super Puma family – including the H225 and AS332 L2 – based on a detailed safety case assembled by Airbus Helicopters.
However, Bradshaw is not convinced by this, arguing that Airbus Helicopters has only come up with a means of detecting the problem once it has occurred, rather than fixing the underlying defect.
"It remains the case that there is an absence of robust and empirical data sets that could be used to inform a reliable safety case that would define, with any specificity, things like the propagation rate once the underlying issue occurs, or the successful identification rate once the underlying issue has developed," he says.
"We also note that certain customer tenders have excluded the 225 helicopters as eligible aircraft."
Era is still pursuing Airbus Helicopters through the courts, arguing that it was sold helicopters with a known safety defect, a position the manufacturer vehemently disputes.
Bradshaw says it would be open to a commercial settlement to the dispute, but adds that "fundamentally, we believe we’ve been harmed by the 225 situation, and we seek compensation for those damages in whatever form possible".
Era says it spent around $1.9 million on legal fees during the third quarter ended 30 September, the majority related to its lawsuit.