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Business Air News Bulletin
Business Air News Bulletin
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Airbus Helicopters

East Midlands Helicopters

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Me & My Aircraft: A355 and A109 'are good helicopters but spare parts availability is appalling' says very unhappy East Midlands Helicopters md
Nigel Burton, md of the UK's East Midlands Helicopters, is very happy with the A355 and the A109 as business helicopters but frustrated by spare part difficulties.

Nigel Burton, md of the UK's East Midlands Helicopters, is very happy with the A355 and the A109 as business helicopters but frustrated by spare part difficulties.

"You just cannot get parts sometimes. It is frustrating and unacceptable," he reports. "I am very unhappy with the availability of spare parts from all sources in the UK. The service is appalling. It is a known fact that, if you want a spare part out of the United States and it is there, that you can get it. The problem lies in getting the part allocated to your own operation. It is a constant problem with these two aircraft and the unnecessary downtime is extremely frustrating especially when you need to make the most of business opportunities during a downturn."

But the A355 and the A109, he reports, are good aircraft for the business and sports trips that comprise the lion's share of East Midlands Helicopters' work as well as for freight, photography, film, sightseeing and leisure, and survey and surveillance.

Burton, who founded the company in 1988, says that the company's two A355s are slightly more cost-effective for longer trips but, although price is an important factor, client decisions between the two types usually reflect personal preference.

"Some prefer the cabin environment of the A109 because they are seated away from the pilot and can focus on work. The A109 is faster and this can make a difference on trips that are 90 minutes or more from, say, the Midlands to Scotland. Others like the proximity to the pilot on the A355. However the A109 has a far better luggage capacity. If you have got golf clubs or equipment to transport than the A109 is the logical choice. Other than that, I would not venture an opinion as to which is the better aircraft. Both have their strengths as far as clients are concerned: it is rather like motorists debating the relative merits of a BMW or a Jaguar."

Burton does not feel that the company's A109 and two A355s would necessarily benefit from more features or upgrades. "Bells and whistles can mean more equipment and more weight when the overwhelming requirement is for simplicity and efficiency," he points out. "I am happy with the aircraft and how they are equipped."

The recession has seen a downturn in the demand for the transport of spare parts in sectors such as the motor industry, but car and horse racing along with business trips in a radius of perhaps one to two hours continue to provide business.

As a young man Burton found trips in fixed-wing aircraft routine but sorties in helicopters exciting and gained his private pilot's licence starting to fly on an Enstrom. "I received enough transport requests to consider launching a commercial venture and decided to see how it went. That was 21 years ago and the fleet has grown and expanded from the single JetRanger we had at the start," Burton says.

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