EC225s For Hire?

SHAH ALAM: Five EC225s for hire? On June 16 it was reported that Petronas was terminating the charter contract for five EC225 helicopters with MHS Aviation, a subsidiary of Boustead Bhd.

From the Star:

The 10-year contract, with an option to extend for another five years, was previously estimated to be worth about RM3bil. In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, Boustead said its 51%-owned subsidiary MHS, the country’s largest civil helicopter operator, had received a letter dated June 9 from Petronas Carigali giving a 90 days’ notice of its intention to terminate “without cause” the contract for the provision of rotary wing aircraft, equipment and services for heavy type aircraft – EC225.

MHS Aviation EC225. Airbus

Two days later, Petronas came out with a statement on the termination:

“The termination is within Petronas Carigali’s contractual rights, following the service suspension of the EC225 since April 2016 due to safety concerns arising from a fatal accident involving the same aircraft model in Norway in the same month of last year,” it said in a statement over the weekend.

Under the June 2011 contract, MHS, which is 51% owned by Boustead, provides the services of five EC225 helicopters from Kertih, Terengganu, for the transportation of personnel to offshore facilities operated by Petronas’ exploration and production arm Petronas Carigali in Peninsular Malaysia.

Petronas noted also that the suspension of the EC225 service by the Norwegian and UK civil aviation authorities had yet to be lifted.

“Most major oil and gas companies have also ceased using the aircraft model pending assurance of its safety and airworthiness,” it said

MHS Aviation EC225

It must be noted that the suspension of the EC225 – now marketed by Airbus Helicopters as H225 service are currently limited to Norway and UK only and in Malaysia it was Petronas which decided to stop using the helicopters. DCA as usual deferred to the regulating authority, in this case EASA.

RMAF EC725 flying at the opening ceremony

The military version – EC725/H225M – was never affected by the incidents though checks were mandated. Some air forces in the region including Malaysia had stopped using the aircraft for a period of time last year although RMAF never confirmed it officially.

Anyhow, despite the safety concerns noted by Petronas, it appears the termination of the EC225 contract, presented an opportunity for government agencies to expand their rotary wing fleet for the last decade or so. The agencies that came to mind are the Malaysian Coast Guard and the police.

MMEA AW139 M72-03. Apart from its duty with APMM, the helicopter is also used for various other duties. Picture taken in late 2013. Malaysian Defence

By leasing these five helicopters to the government, Boustead will recover some of the money it invested in MHS Aviation. Indeed the 10-year Petronas contract was cited as the business case for Boustead in taking a 51 % stake in MHS Aviation in 2010.

The EC225 will only need limited modification to be used in SAR and utility role. A rescue hoist, a search light and a electro-optical turret could easily be fitted on the helicopter to extend its capability.

Safran EuroFlir 410

Indeed Japan Coast Guard used its EC225/H225 for security enforcement, territorial coastal activities, and disaster relief missions according to a release issued by Airbus on June 21, in announcing the deal for three new helicopters for the agency.
Japan Coast Guard EC225

Please note that the idea to lease this helicopters to the government is from me though I think Boustead officials will be thinking in the same line. Perhaps APMM and police officials will disagree but the EC225 is a logical answer to their needs especially when support and maintenance facilities are already well established locally.
The Goodrich hoist fitted on a Super Puma helicopter. Anthony Pecchi.

Airbus also has an EC225/H225 simulator operating in Subang which will allow quick entry into service. With five airframes available, two could be used operationally – for both APMM and police use or one of them – with one used for training with the other two in maintenance. The two operatonal helicopters could be stationed in Subang and Miri (at the MHS Aviation hangar).
One of the two AW139 leased to PDRM. Note the rescue hoist.

As the RMAF is not keen on pre-used aircraft, I am leaving them from these discussions altogether.

–Malaysian Defence

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