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LCI downbeat on H225 prospects despite rehabilitation efforts

Lessor LCI sees little prospect of any return in the offshore energy sector for Airbus Helicopters' troubled H225, despite the airframer's ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the reputation of its heavy-twin.

"I don't think they [H225s] are coming back in oil and gas in any significant way," said Mike Platt, chief executive at Dublin-based LCI, speaking at the Helitech show in London yesterday.

LCI has no exposure to the H225, having previously cancelled an order for an upgraded variant – the EC225e – which was subsequently abandoned by the airframer.

The H255 was grounded in Norway and the UK following a crash in April 2016 in which 13 passengers and crew were killed.

Regulators in the two countries only lifted their flight restrictions in July, but no operators have so far applied to the UK Civil Aviation Authority with a safety case to enable their return.

Platt believes a large part of the market effectively vacated by the H225 filled by super-medium types such as the H175 and Leonardo Helicopters AW189.

Of the three main operators on the UK side of the North Sea, CHC Helicopters has already divested its H225 fleet, leaving only Babcock Mission Critical Services Offshore and Bristow Helicopters as potential Super Puma users in the region.

Bristow has shown little interest in returning its H225s to service, and Babcock says the helicopters remain suspended from operations while it works on developing its safety case for a flight return.

Earlier on 3 October, Airbus Helicopters chief executive Guillaume Faury participated in a customer demonstration flight aboard a H225.

Speaking as he disembarked from the helicopter, Faury said the manufacturer is still working with Norwegian crash investigators to understand the root cause for the accident.

"We understand that it takes time to restore trust after this accident. We have a responsibility to explain these safety measures that have been put in place."

However, a pair of UK-based H225s look set to return to the skies in the coming weeks.

Vector Aerospace will conduct a "full return to service programme" for the two aircraft, which belong to an undisclosed operator, at its Fleetlands facility in the south of the UK.

Both have been "extracted from varying states of preservation", says the maintenance provider.

"We anticipate moving forward with ground runs on the first aircraft in the next few weeks. Vector Aerospace has compiled a safety case for check flight activity in accordance with the directives and requirements issued by the regulatory authorities and will be applying for a permit to fly," it says.

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