Angolan operator Bestfly has entered the rotary market with the addition of two Leonardo AW139s to its Luanda-based fleet as part of a partnership with France's Heli-Union that was agreed in August this year. The companies will operate the aircraft for an undisclosed leading energy supplier with numerous on and off shore locations in Angola. To be used predominantly for medevac purposes, the AW139s will also perform crew changes from the company's oil rigs, and will also be available for charter. The energy firm has been in discussion with Bestfly since May and has spent significant time auditing the operator's fixed wing operations before selecting it to perform local rotary operations.
The helicopters are the first rotary aircraft that Bestfly has added to its fleet since launching in November 2009. To support the new operational requirements and enable immediate flying, Bestfly has partnered with experienced helicopter operator Heli-Union. The machines are currently registered on the French company's AOC but will move to Bestfly's Angolan AOC, and are expected to be registered in Angola within six months.
The first helicopter is already on site at Bestfly's facility and made its inaugural flight on 23 November, while the second will be on site and operational by the end of the year.
“We've worked hard to achieve international safety and OGP standards, and the decision to place these two machines with us reflects the confidence the owner has in our operations," states Bestfly CEO Nuno Pereira. "This is a great opportunity for us to expand our service offering for our local customers and add more capabilities to the business. We hope to add more helicopters to the fleet over the next 12 months as demand for the operational flexibility delivered by these machines continues to expand here."
The AW139s are also available for third party charter and Pereira anticipates they will be welcomed by the country's developing mining, agriculture and telecom sectors, which regularly require operations in and out of areas with either minimal or no airport access or services.
Heli-Union will also use its extensive experience to support Bestfly with maintenance and pilot training. “We've made significant operational changes as we've adapted to the requirements of rotary operations," adds Pereira. "Heli-Union is training up our team in all aspects of ground handling, operations, protocol, dispatch and maintenance. The addition of the helicopters isn't just important for our business, but for Angolan aviation in general, as we plan to build a fully Angolan-led rotary team and crew within a few years. This will add valuable skills to our local and regional aviation community."
Heli-Union deputy CEO Jonathan Cosson is proud to partner with Bestfly: "This fits well into the frame of our expansion. Thanks to our significant experience in building win-win partnerships, Heli-Union will remain fully involved in the operations to ensure Bestfly's success."
Bestfly could have had a difficult year, as a new commuter airline was established by the government that it had to compete with, but Pereira says that the operator has prevailed: "It has been challenging but despite this very tough year, we have actually had our best year financially; we broke all our records in terms of revenue, profit and new areas that we are expanding to. In that sense, it couldn’t have gone any better.
“At MEBAA we will be announcing that we are going to get another G550 as there is such high demand for this type of aircraft capability. We also have a number of other jets and two helicopters, so it shows the strength of our company as we continue to grow."
He is confident that he will have more business once other energy companies come on board: "The local economy is heavily supported by oil and gas. There were some cutbacks in 2016 and the drop in oil price has had an effect, but some companies are wanting to review their aviation support services and look at other suppliers. All of the major energy providers have pushed us to see that we are up to the task of carrying out the work, and we are very confident that we can deliver. We would like to increase our market share for this operation," he concludes.