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Helikopter Service links with Rotex on long-line projects

Norway's Helikopter Service is in the final stages of setting up a joint venture with newly formed central European helicopter operator Rotex to cover long-line work in the oil and construction industries worldwide.

David Price, Helikopter Service project manager, says that the Bergen-based company intends to use the expertise of Rotex mostly for offshore and inland oil-platform flare-boom tip-replacement work - a task traditionally undertaken using conventional, or barge-based, cranes, often resulting in up to three days of rig downtime. According to Price, using helicopter long-line techniques can reduce downtime to about 5h.

The initial contract with Rotex is for up to 90 days of work a year, although Price says that this may be extended should the arrangement prove to be a success. He is looking at potential markets in Australia, Malaysia and Latin America.

Rotex, which recently took delivery of a Kaman K-1200 K-Max single-seat, medium-lift helicopter (Flight International, 28 May-3 June) was launched on 1 April by five staff. These resigned from Swiss operator Helog after the 1996 appointment of a new general manager by Helog shareholders.

A $3.5 million launch package has been raised for Rotex by the ex-Helog staff, who own 51% of the company, plus private investment from industrialist Otto Hofstetter and Helog ex-general manager, Rolf Stalder. Maintenance work is carried out for Rotex by Rhein-Helikopter at the Rotex headquarters in Balzers, Liechenstein.

Stalder says that the company has been formed as a specialist general contractor for combined air/ground transport in the logging and construction industry, and as a specialist contractor for high-altitude and long-line work. He says that the team, led by chief pilot Heinz Leibundgut, has already had experience of flare-tip replacement operations on the Osseberg Alfa oil platform in the North Sea, using a Eurocopter AS332 helicopter.

Rotex is based in Liechenstein for its closeness to potential European Union (EU) logging markets in Austria, France and Germany. Switzerland was rejected as a base because it is not a member of the EU, making contracting work in member states more complicated.

In addition to its K-Max, the company has access to Rhein's two Aerospatiale SA315 Lama helicopters, and will hire other machines when necessary.