CHC safety record knocked by EC225 ditching but CEO praises pilots

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Canadian helicopter operator CHC Helicopter has seen its safety record take a minor knock as a result of the 22 October ditching of one of its Eurocopter EC225s in the North Sea, but maintains its overall performance is still industry-leading.

Speaking on a fiscal year second-quarter conference call, chief executive and president William Amelio said the company's rolling five-year safety average is now at 0.36 per 100,000 flight hours, up from 0.23 in the previous three quarters. However, this is still considerably below the average for the offshore transport sector of 1.8 per 100,000h.

And Amelio praised the pilots involved in the ditching. He said: "In the incident seven weeks ago, our crew was well-prepared, calm and controlled and nothing short of masterful in their execution of the emergency landing."

Following the incident UK and Norwegian civil aviation regulators banned the type from overwater flights. As a result Vancouver-based CHC has been working with Eurocopter to bring its EC225 fleet back into service. Although the airframer has given a February deadline to implement a solution, Amelio admits this target could be missed.

"We're hopeful that we'll have a solution and we'll be able to get the majority of the aircraft back up and flying again, but as you can imagine this is a highly technical problem and there is some concern that it could slip a bit, but we are hopeful that it will happen in February."

He declined to speculate on any financial effects the grounding might have on the company's financial performance in the third quarter.

CHC saw its earnings rise 6% in the three months to the end of October to $447 million, up from $423 million in the same period last year.

Although the company recorded a pre-tax profit of $12 million for the period, up against a loss of $7.43 million in the second quarter of its 2012 financial year, six-months losses swelled to $19.2 million, up against $13.4 million for the six months ended 31 October 2011.

The company's helicopter services division was responsible for the bulk of turnover growth, rising to $402 million from $383 million in the prior period. The MRO business, Heli-One, contributed turnover of $42.4 million.