Specialist Aviation Services, which provides helicopters and support services to police and air ambulance operators, is establishing new markets with business in the Middle East and its first offshore contract.

The Cheltenham company - which operates nine MD Explorers on behalf of clients and carries out third-party completions and maintenance - will next year begin transporting technicians and equipment to about 50 remote lighthouses around the English and Welsh coasts on behalf of maintenance provider Trinity House.

SAS is also providing pilots and carrying out maintenance for law-enforcement and other agencies in the Gulf.

The 25-year-old company admits its traditional market for police and medical helicopters in the UK is "pretty mature", with opportunities mainly around replacing or upgrading existing aircraft. "We are keen to grow internationally," says managing director Henk Schaeken.

Last year, the company delivered two Explorers to the Hertforshire Air Ambulance and Greater Manchester Police. This year it has upgraded Explorers for Sussex Police and Dorset Police and is carrying out work on an Explorer for Wiltshire Police. It will deliver an Explorer to the air ambulance service in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire next year.

Schaeken says the air ambulance market - which is funded mainly by charity - is "faring well at present", despite a general squeeze on charitable donations.

The Greater Manchester helicopter was on show at Helitech, with features including a FLIR Systems Star Safire HD multi-sensor camera turret and SkyQuest video management system. It has notched up 1,300 flight hours since being delivered a year ago.

Source: Flight International