Helicentre Aviation has been awarded an eight-year contract to provide aerial surveillance services to the UK's National Grid. The contract is for the surveillance of gas pipelines using Bell 206 helicopters for an estimated 2,000 ﬂying hours a year.
“It is fantastic news,” says Helicentre chief pilot and md captain Sarah Bowen. “We've already been operating this contract for almost three years, but the work went out to industry to be re-tendered as it came to the end of its period.
“The contract before was more of an emergency contract which just went on and on, because it was taken away from the previous operator.
It was only meant to be a really short-term thing but as time went on, they realised that we were doing a good job,” she adds. It is not just National Grid that the company serves: “We also have other utility companies that we work for in terms of gas and oil. We survey fuel pipelines as well, but we've worked closely with National Grid over the past few years, and have a really good relationship with them,” says Bowen.
Helicentre's fleet is not expected to be altered significantly in light of this contract: “We are in a position whereby we can mobilise very seamlessly, because we already operate the contract. We will be bringing in a couple of backup aircraft too, but we do already have everything we need. All the aircraft we use will be JetRangers,” says Bowen.
“I think in the utility sector there will be further opportunity for us, because we've got the expertise and there are other contracts that are going to come as a result of it. I think that this contract itself will evolve too.”
The award of the contract will certainly prove a valuable one for the operator: “This is worth in excess of £20 million to us,” Bowen confirms. “At this stage we are not looking at anything overseas but we are always open to new developments. The utility side makes up about 50 per cent of our business, and the training side is roughly the other 50 per cent.”