Helicopter services industry

The founding partners of Finambition have worked in many industries and can safely be considered as highly all-round players.

With an accumulated experience of over 20 years in the helicopter service industry, however, they can rightly be called financial specialists in this line of business. In addition to their own knowledge and experience, the partners in Finambition also have an extensive network in the industry which they can call on if needed. This makes us unique to the industry.

One of the typical features of the helicopter service industry is that it caters for the business-to-business market. Not surprisingly, customers are extremely demanding, in terms of service flexibility, quality and safety. Services are generally based on a long-term contract with a standing (availability) charge and a fee per flight hour. The principle is the same, whether we’re talking about helicopters in the oil and gas industry, operating a search and rescue service or an emergency service, or for fire-fighting purposes. Generally, the more demanding the customer, the higher the entry barriers for competitors, and the bigger the margins. This is why the oil and gas industry and search and rescue services are reckoned to yield the best financial return for operators.

It actually doesn’t matter much whether the service is provided with a helicopter or a fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopters dominate the market because of their specific capabilities, but fixed-wing aircraft fit in equally well in the business model and are often needed by the customers. The technique is different and the pilots and engineers have a different licence, that’s all. Scheduled services, though, are a different kettle of fish. Scheduled services, including helicopter scheduled services, are based on a different business model, with different customers, different competitors and different margins. In fact, scheduled helicopter services are further away from the core business of the helicopter service industry than business-to-business services with fixed-wing aircraft. 

Working in ‘challenging’ countries is another feature of the industry. The challenge may be due to cultural differences, remote locations, local regulations, safety or other local conditions. You need to possess a pioneering spirit to be successful there. But a pioneering spirit and sound financial management are often at odds with each other. We have the necessary experience in working in these ‘difficult’ countries and know how to perform effectively in these conditions.

Another typical feature of the industry is the high-maintenance aspect of the fleet and the underlying logistic process. It would be hard to imagine a more complex logistic process: maintenance planning based on flight hours, unexpected maintenance and repairs, valuable components that need a regular overhaul at a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, optimum stock size and location, spares certificates, customs clearance of new and used parts, VAT, import duties, 'difficult' countries and so on. In short, a process by which the operator can gain an edge on its competitors, or conversely, lose the game.

The industry is suitable to centralisation only to a limited extent. General business guidelines , the business framework, need be set centrally, i.e. at headquarters. The same applies to the formulation and monitoring of policies and procedures and the management of the fleet. But service delivery is local and it’s there that the operators encounter their demanding customers. It is there that day-to-day issues need to be resolved immediately by capable local managers, within company guidelines of course. It’s also locally that the usually complex and unique transactions must be recorded. We know from our experience that many operators struggle with the 'centralisation vs. decentralisation' issue, and that many consultants don’t understand the business well enough to provide the right advice. Here at Finambition, we do.