Bristow snaps up Sikorsky S-92s in wake of Super Puma grounding

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Texas-based helicopter operator Bristow Group has responded to the grounding of 16 Eurocopter Super Pumas in its fleet with an order for 10 additional Sikorsky S-92s with 16 options.

The commitment was disclosed on 7 November in the company's half-year earnings.

Its grounded fleet - 15 EC225s and a solitary AS332 L2 - are spread across the UK, Australia, Norway and Nigeria and remain out of action following the 22 October ditching of an EC225 in the North Sea near the Shetland Islands.

Bristow says it is too early to quantify the financial impact of the potentially lengthy grounding, however it says it has "increased utilisation of other in-region aircraft and has moved, or is moving, available aircraft to minimise or eliminate the impact to our clients".

It says: "Bristow has the financial strength to handle this challenge and thrive in this environment and be proactive. The contract for ten additional Sikorsky S-92 large helicopters is an example of our ability to manage through this issue."

Bill Chiles, Bristow Group president and chief executive, says the company has the "financial profile" to be able "to fill in some of the holes" the groundings have created.

It estimates that about 60-70 EC225s remain grounded globally, with the North Sea and Brazil particularly affected. "That's why we have gone out and acquired the additional S-92s," says Mark Duncan, senior vice-president, commercial at Bristow.

Aircraft moved into the area to replace the EC225s include AgustaWestland AW139s and Sikorsky S-76 and S-92 types, says Chiles.

As part of the deal to acquire the S-92s, Sikorsky has agreed to take the remaining 15 S-76As in Bristow's fleet, adds Duncan.

In the three months to 30 September, the operator recorded revenue of $326 million, up 9.7% on the same period last year, with EBITDAR of $84.9 million, a rise of 19.2% against the prior year.

The company had a total of 349 helicopters in its fleet at 30 September.