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Waypoint signs for H135 as helicopter lessors diversify

The rotorcraft industry’s trio of big lessors are out in force at Helitech, with each keen to emphasise that business continues to be strong despite the downturn in the oil and gas segment that is afflicting heavy helicopter operators.

All three companies point to an increasingly diverse asset portfolio as a sign that they focused on more than just the offshore segment. Underlining this trend an order announced todayfrom Waypoint Leasing for up to 20 Airbus Helicopters H135 light twins – the first commitment for the type from any lessor.

Deliveries of the helicopters are previsioned for the period to 2019, with an initial batch of the three helicopters due to arrive next year. No engine selection has been made yet, says Waypoint chief executive Ed Washecka, with the exact balance between the Pratt & Whitney Canada- and Turbomeca-powered variants “ultimately driven by the end user”.

Washecka points out that Waypoint has had emergency medical services and firefighting helicopters in its portfolio “since the first six months” and last year placed an order for the larger H145.

“We have been focussed on the EMS and parapublic markets for some time,” he says. “We identified them a few years ago as part of our growth strategy.”

Waypoint has also signed a joint agreement with Airbus Helicopters to promote leasing solutions for the latter’s products.

Additionally Waypoint signed a separate deal at Helitech with AgustaWestland for the acquisition of a total of 18 helicopters – covering the AW139, AW169 and AW189 – for delivery in the period from 2016-2019.

Neither of the other two big lessors in the space – Lease Corp International and GECAS-owned Milestone Aviation – placed orders at Helitech, however.

Daniel Rosenthal, president of Milestone, points to its existing “strong framework agreements” with the helicopter manufacturers as being able to “fulfil what our customers need”.

It has recently focussed on customer relations, opening five new offices across the globe and bolstering its team “to emphasise that at a time like this we are investing to support them”.

“We are growing the business appropriately and thoughtfully to be more responsive to our customers,” says Rosenthal.

“It is easy to place orders, take a nice photograph and get a nice model, we are making sure we have aligned the supply in the market with demand,”

Mike Platt, chief executive of LCI, says that although it would be “foolish to say” that there has been no impact from the downturn in oil and gas services, its portfolio of mainly medium-class helicopters has been less affected.

It recently signed two separate deals for a total of 10 AW139s in Australia for EMS provision and is hopeful of placing its first EMS-roled AW169 before year-end.

“We intend to be a major player in the EMS space,” adds Platt, including in emerging markets.

Its total orders and options number some 90 aircraft, with 19 so far in service and another nine to be added before year-end.

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