One company just taking its first tentative steps into the leasing market is Vector Aerospace. Traditionally an MRO provider, this year it created a subsidiary called Vector Financial Services to offer something different to the industry.

It has acquired 11 Eurocopter AS332Ls, all built in the early 1980s, from operator Bristow Group and is in the process of overhauling and refurbishing the aircraft to produce nine serviceable helicopters configured for utility or humanitarian work.Declan O'Shea, chief executive and president of Eurocopter-owned Vector, explains its rationale: "Really, this is an excellent way for an operator to have a low-capital entry into the Super Puma market for these types of missions." The monthly lease rate additionally incorporates a power-by-the-hour deal on components and engines.

All the engineering design work and refurbishment, which, aside from the cabin reconfiguration includes the addition of cockpit voice recorders and night-vision goggle capability, has been performed at Vector's Langley site in British Columbia, Canada, using the company's own supplemental type certificates.

The first two completed helicopters from the deal are destined for Peruvian operator Servicios Aéreos de los Andes this summer and will be the first Super Pumas to be operated in the Andean nation.

"What we are trying to do is make them very competitive against the Mils which dominate this market. What we are now seeing is AS332s being specified as part of UN request for proposals," says O'Shea.

"This utility configuration is really a first of its kind for the Super Puma," adds Balkiz Sarihan, vice-president strategic marketing and development, pointing out the type's suitability for hot and high environments.Although this mirrors Eurocopter's own strategy to take on the utility market through the launch last year of a new-build variant of the Super Puma, the AS332 C1e, O'Shea insists Vector's initiative is separate to that of its parent and, ultimately, is platform agnostic.

However, he adds: "We believe we can easily grow the business on this type. And if you can keep to the one type of aircraft, it keeps everything much simpler."It's not for the big guys but in the middle, there's a significant market and it's for operations and lift where the AS332s would not have been considered before. There's significant growth potential out there," he adds.It had looked to perform this activity prior to the Eurocopter acquisition, but the additional financial clout and OEM support gave it added traction, says O'Shea.

Vector has taken a steady pace with the reconfiguration of the initial aircraft because of the somewhat developmental nature of the project.

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However, O'Shea says he hopes the next few will come through relatively quickly, with a target of four to six weeks "from getting the aircraft in and out the door".

Demand will rise over the next two years, he adds, believing it could "more than double" its leased fleet over the next 18 months.

Source: Flight Daily News