BAN's World GazetteerSweden
Vasteras-based HeliAir Sweden has taken delivery of an AS350B2 rotorcraft. It is the second B2 in the fleet and the company also flies a B3 and several Bell and MD types. “We found that this was a good deal on a low time and low component time helicopter; we don't need extra cargo kilos for the contracts we have,” says accountable manager and CEO Aram Rubinstein.
“We do some Bambi Bucket work in the shooting ranges of the military in Sweden. We do a lot of lifting jobs and aerial filming with the Cineflex. We build and tear down masts too. For our missions, the B2 is probably the best helicopter in the world.
“It can be tricky to deal with Airbus and Turbomeca, and by that I mean customer support, lead time and spares cost,” continues Rubinstein. “Other than that this aircraft is in a league of its own and cannot be compared with any other. We have had JetRangers, LongRangers, Hueys, MD500s, the whole range, and none of these compare.”
The latest B2 is identical to the others in the fleet, and the operator requires floats and a floor window. This aircraft was delivered with those features and needed no additional modifications. HeliAir Sweden is also changing all of its MD500s for EC120s. “We just bought two EC120s and we are selling off the MD fleet, starting more or less now – two customers are coming this month,” Rubinstein explains. “We have taken delivery of the first EC120 and we are taking delivery of the second one imminently. We are then starting to sell off the MD500s.”
Maintenance is the deal maker for the EC120 switch, and Rubinstein says there are other advantages too: “Visibility when we inspect power lines is better in the EC, endurance is better, comfort is better and it is quieter inside and out, so the environmental impact is reduced. You can fly legally from the right and from the left. We thought it was better to deal with a European manufacturer, have everything under one roof.
“We avoid currency confusion this way; although we don't have the Euro in Sweden it is still simpler than dealing with the dollar. The dollar is more risky and we have been hit hard in the past. For parts and maint-enance we aren't mixing the imperial and metric system, we can stick to one as it is used across Europe. There will be an initial cost, but we already have three Squirrels so we think this will be a bit easier for the main-tenance guys now that it is all metric.”
There is a 35-hour inspection on the MD500 as opposed to the 100-hour on the EC, and the EC flies the 100 hours usually without any snags, according to the operator. There is a four-hour down time on the EC for the inspection, but with the MD500 the inspectors often never make it. “There is always something going on with them, be it a broken door or whatever,” states Rubinstein. “There is a lot of maintenance there. But then again it is an old helicopter. In my opinion the European quality versus the American makes all the difference. However, the vertical visibility on the MD500 is better on the EC but this is just a matter of retraining the pilots. This is not going to cost much to implement in the long run.”
The operator's fleet currently comprises three 350s, five MD500s, one JetRanger, one LongRanger and one Bell Huey. Rubinstein founded it about 20 years ago on a small scale, and it has steadily grown. “Our main customer is the power line companies, and we do a lot of work for the Swedish military with the V14 and Elite Cineflex cameras,” he concludes.