BAN's World GazetteerU.K.
Pacific Helicopters has acquired a Eurocopter AS350 B3e, using UK-based Aerospace Design in Denham to perform a contemporary interior fit on the aircraft. The Squirrel is an improvement on the EC120 formerly used by Pacific, and offers a wider array of safety features as well as delivering more power. The company specialises in moving vip customers around, under the AOC of UK-based operator Elite Helicopters. Previous clients have included notable personnel from Formula One.
The Squirrel will also be used to fly banners over major cities in conjunction with HOBS Banners.
Director Henry Beckwith explains the investment: “We had our EC120 for six years and decided that our clients would probably prefer to have something a bit sturdier, a lot more powerful and faster. The Squirrel is safer too, because the extra power gives that much more flexibility in terms of taking off much quicker and gaining altitude faster. With the extra power we've been able to install a lot more on the aircraft in terms of safety.
“The new aircraft will be able to pull the banners along, whereas the 120 was slightly underpowered. The B3e has obviously got extra safety features and we liked the Eurocopter product, so it's a natural stepping stone up.” Beckwith also points out the rise in the number of customers who are willing to travel in single-engine aircraft: “We're picking up new clients, maybe people who would rather travel in a Squirrel than an EC120. I think a lot of people make that decision and if they are happy to fly in a single then this is an ideal aircraft, because there is a market for those that don't have to have a twin.
“They get the cost-saving of travelling in a single, and they are usually quite educated passengers in terms of knowing that a single won't get in too much trouble. The new engine in the B3e is that much more reliable, it's not stuck in the past in terms of needing a second engine.”
Pacific has created a unique aircraft by teaming up with Aerospace Design, which has fitted it with the Garmin G500H and Cobham HeliSAS 2 axis autopilot, and believes it is the first helicopter in the UK to have these two technologies installed. The Squirrel has a fully glass cockpit with traffic collision, 3D topography and a full night kit and auxiliary fuel tanks have been added in light of the extra power output. As to the future, Beckwith predicts a steady growth: “We want to take on a wider range of clients and to be able to perform the Heliban operation ourselves down the line.
“In the economic downturn people will be wanting to tighten their purse strings and going down the single engine route would obviously help achieve that aim.”